The execution of Marcellus Williams has been delayed by Missouri Governor Eric Geitens after DNA evidence has come to light in the murder case of Lisha Gayle, the Washington Post reports.
He was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection at 6pm on Tuesday.
The Missouri Supreme Court had delayed his execution in 2015 to allow for further DNA testing, but the state was planning to proceed with it despite the new evidence. Williams’ attorneys have now appealed his case to the US Supreme Court to either get a new hearing taking into account the DNA evidence or a commutation of his life sentence.
Gayle, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who became a social worker, was killed during an 11 August 1998 robbery at her home in a gated community in a suburb of St Louis.
Genetic testing done in December 2016, not available at the time of death, showed an unknown third person’s DNA on the murder weapon other than that of Williams and Gayle.
Lawyer Kent Gipson also cited previous DNA testing of hairs found on Gayle’s shirt and fingernails that also excluded Williams, and said footprints at the scene did not match Williams.
The conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons – Henry Cole and Laura Asaro – who were set to receive $10,000 as a reward from the victim’s family for information on the case, according to Gipson.
In addition to the murder conviction, Williams is also serving consecutive terms of life in prison for robbery and 30 years each for burglary and weapons crimes.
St Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch has said that there is “zero possibility” that Williams is innocent.
He claimed the DNA evidence Gipson and his team have cited is inconclusive.
Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Missouri NAACP officials had delivered copies of more than 185,000 signatures ahead of Greitens’ decision.