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Court sets hearing for Marcellus Williams to present DNA evidence before execution date

Marcellus Williams, photographed in prison (photo submitted).
Marcellus Williams, photographed in prison (photo submitted).

A Missouri man scheduled to be executed in September will get a chance to present a court with DNA evidence he believes will exonerate him.

Marcellus Williams will get a hearing on Aug. 21, at the request of St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell. The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to vacate the conviction after reviewing the case and discovering “clear and convincing evidence” that Williams is innocent.

Williams was convicted in the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle.

In his motion to vacate the conviction, Bell noted that Williams was not the source of DNA found on the weapon used to kill Gayle. Other forensic evidence also excluded Williams as the killer, Bell argues.

Opposing Bell’s motion is Attorney General Andrew Bailey, whose office has argued that Williams was found guilty by a jury of his peers. The Attorney General’s Office has opposed every innocence case for the last 30 years, including every attempt made by a local prosecutor to overturn a conviction on the basis of innocence.

“The attorney general should not be trying to block the court’s review, and the Missouri Supreme Court should stay Mr. Williams’s execution,” said Tricia Bushnell, Williams’ attorney.

In 2015, the Missouri Supreme Court stayed Williams’s execution and appointed a special master to review DNA testing of potentially exculpatory evidence. Two years later, without conducting a hearing, the court rescheduled Williams’ execution.

Later that year, however, former Gov. Eric Greitens issued the second stay and appointed a board of inquiry to look into the case.

Gov. Mike Parson lifted the stay and dissolved the board in June 2023, and the state Supreme Court issued the execution warrant last month, setting a Sept. 24 execution date.

The Missouri Independent is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering state government, politics and policy. It is staffed by veteran Missouri reporters and is dedicated to its mission of relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Jefferson City are made and their impact on individuals across the Show-Me State.
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