Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called off an execution so the state could make sure it sentenced a guilty man to death, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He granted a stay to Marcellus Williams, who had been facing death by injection yesterday for the 1998 murder of Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle at her home. Williams’ attorneys say DNA tests could prove their client’s innocence. Greitens said he was appointing a board of inquiry to investigate the case in light of an “inconclusive” DNA test. “A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” he said. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt.”
Williams’ attorneys say DNA found on the murder weapon did not match Williams’ DNA. Greitens said the five-member board would include retired Missouri judges and have the power to subpoena witnesses and evidence. The proceedings will be closed to the public. Williams, 48, was sentenced to death in 2001. Prosecutors said Williams was burglarizing the home when Gayle, who had been taking a shower, surprised him. She fought for her life as she was stabbed repeatedly. Using technology that was not available at the time of the killing, tests showed that DNA found on the knife matched an unknown male. Williams’ DNA was not found on the knife. Despite that finding, the state’s high court denied his petition to stop the execution and either appoint a special master to hear his innocence claim or order his sentence commuted to life in prison.