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Missouri's governor leaves office without granting pardon to death row inmate Marcellus Williams

Missouri's governor took the rare steps last year of staying the execution of a death row inmate and announcing the ...

Posted: Jun 2, 2018 12:47 PM
Updated: Jun 2, 2018 12:47 PM

Missouri's governor took the rare steps last year of staying the execution of a death row inmate and announcing the creation of a five-person panel to look at the case.

But with Eric Greitens resigning in disgrace and leaving office Friday, supporters of convicted killer Marcellus Williams, 49, were scrambling to figure out whether that board inquiry would ever meet.

It had been scheduled to meet Tuesday but an attorney for Williams' team said they had been notified the meeting was canceled.

Williams' supporters remained hopeful, but on Friday learned his name was not included on a clemency and pardon list released by Greitens' office before the governor resigned.

Greitens decided to issue five pardons and commute four sentences before leaving his position. The list included men and women sentenced for crimes ranging from DWI to capital murder.

"Each of the people on this list has a story to tell, and I look forward to each of them having the chance to do that," Greitens' office said in a statement. "Each of them has overcome injustice, and many have overcome abuse. Each of them has something to give to this state, and to the world."

The NAACP was one of the groups that asked Greitens to commute Williams' sentence before departing office.

"The (NAACP) has long been opposed to the death penalty in any case because it is a cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary punishment that has been applied in a racially disparate manner. However, above and beyond these general problems, there are compelling reasons to spare Mr. Williams' life," NAACP President Derrick Johnson said earlier.

Lt. Gov. Mike Parson will replace Greitens.

Williams was convicted in the death of Felicia Gayle, 42, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper who was stabbed 43 times inside her home in August 1998.

The newly acquired evidence shows Williams' DNA was not found on the murder weapon, Williams' lawyers say, though DNA from another male was found.

That evidence was not available when Williams went to trial in 2001, court documents say. Williams maintains his innocence and says he was convicted on the testimony of individuals who were, themselves, convicted felons.

The state attorney general's office said the new DNA evidence does not show that Williams is innocent. His guilt was proven without DNA evidence, it said.

Other evidence included a laptop belonging to the victim's husband, which Williams sold and police recovered, and some of the victim's personal items, which police found in the trunk of the car Williams drove, according to court documents.

Williams got picked up about three weeks after Gayle was killed on unrelated charges. His cellmate from that timel, Henry Cole, and Laura Asaro, Williams' girlfriend, testified for the state, saying Williams told them separately that he killed Gayle, according to the documents filed by the state attorney general.

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