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Governor stays man's execution due to DNA evidence

Governor stays man's execution due to DNA evidence
Posted at 3:35 PM, Aug 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-22 11:36:12-04

ST. LOUIS (CNN) - A man convicted of murdering a woman in her home was hours away from execution Tuesday in Missouri, until the governor issued a stay.

Marcellus Williams Sr. was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Tuesday. CNN reported Gov. Eric Greitens halted it after DNA raised questions about Williams' guilt.

The only thing standing between him and death is a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, based on new evidence the defense said proves he's not the killer.

Williams was convicted of killing 42-year-old Felicia Gayle inside of her home in 1998.

She was found with more than 40 stab wounds and a kitchen knife still lodged in her body.

The case hinged on the testimony of two other criminals, Williams' former girlfriend and the cell mate he bunked with while serving time for an unrelated crime.

Williams was also tied to stolen items from Gayle's home.

A nearly all-white jury convicted Williams of murder and sentenced him to die.

The defense has new DNA evidence it said proves Williams is innocent.

The new evidence shows "that he did not hold the murder weapon, and the weapon was found in the victim's body," said Larry Komp, Williams Sr.'s attorney. 

It was enough to delay the first execution date while experts examined the DNA on the knife.

The first lab would not exclude Williams, but three other analysts, including Greg Hampikian, say the evidence is enough to rule him out.

"This knife was handled rigorously. It was rubbed and friction is what transfers DNA. So whoever handled this knife likely left DNA, it is not Marcellus Williams," Hampikian said.

The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed, allowing the execution to go ahead.

A spokesperson for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said, "Based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams' guilt."

For the state it's justice; to his son, it's murder.

"It's an innocent man getting murdered, and it's not right," his son, Marcellus Williams Jr., said.

He was only 8 when his father was arrested for murder.

"The victim being a white woman, him being black, Muslim, a towering figure, they've got to make an example," Williams Jr. said.

As he waits for a decision, the younger Williams says his father is at peace with whatever comes next.

"And if tomorrow is his last day, I'm going to go be a witness and watch, be there for him and support him in his last time, his last hours," Williams Jr. said.

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