Missouri preparing to execute convicted killer, but new DNA evidence could demonstrate his innocence, lawyers say

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Missouri is preparing to execute a 48 -year-old convicted murderer Tuesday — but his lawyers are advising the state that new DNA evidence means they could be putting a potentially innocent man to death.

Marcellus Williams was convicted of brutally stabbing and murdering Lisha Gayle, a St. Louis newspaper reporter, during a 1998 robbery inside her home in the suburbium of University City. Williams is scheduled to be executed Tuesday evening, but lawyers for the death row inmate have appealed to the US Supreme Court.

A brief filed with Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch Monday night aims to stop the execution and analyze new proof Williams’ attorneys say point to a different killer.

“There is conclusive scientific evidence that another man committed the crime, ” stated the brief, written by defense lawyer Kent Gipson.


The newly acquired evidence depicts Williams’ DNA wasn’t saw on the assassination weapon, Williams’ lawyers say, but DNA from another male was detected. The DNA testing techniques used were not available when Williams was tried in 2001.

Hair samples and fingernails found at the crime scene don’t match Williams’ DNA either, said Greg Hampikian, a forensic DNA expert hired by defense lawyers, and footprints at the scene didn’t match his shoes, defense attorney Larry Komp said.

The analysis of DNA on the knife “isn’t enough to incriminate someone, but it is enough to exclude someone, ” Hampikian told CNN Monday. “When you’re stabbing, DNA transfers because of restriction and force-out. If you’re stabbing anyone, you have a good chance of transferring your Dna because of that force.”

But prosecutors remain confident that Williams is guilty and maintain that the execution should be carried out based on other non-DNA proof in the case, said Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley.


Court documents filed in opposition to a remain of executing by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office say the new DNA evidence “does not come close to showing Williams is actually innocent.”

“It would be unsurprising if Williams, who wore a coat from the crime scene to cover his bloody shirt, wore gloves when he committed the burglary and the murder, ” the documents say.

“Our office is confident in Marcellus Williams’ guilt and plans to move forward, ” Paradise said.

Gipson said Williams’ conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons who were after a $10,000 reward. One was Williams’ former girlfriend and the other was his former cellmate.

In addition to the murder conviction, Williams is also serving consecutive life terms for robbery, and 30 years each for burglary and weapons crimes.

If Williams’ death sentence is carried out, it would be Missouri’s second execution this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report .

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