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Missouri inmate’s execution date is scheduled, despite awaiting a hearing regarding his claim of actual innocence

Mike Parson (Via Harley Simmons/Getty Images)

The Missouri Supreme Court has scheduled an execution date of September 24 for Marcellus Williams, despite ongoing legal proceedings regarding his claim of innocence in the murder case that led to his death sentence.

Earlier on Tuesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that Governor Mike Parson acted within his authority when he disbanded a board of inquiry, which was initially convened six years ago by his predecessor to investigate Williams’ innocence claim.

Williams, aged 55, was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1998 killing of Lisha Gayle during a robbery at her home in suburban St. Louis.

In August 2017, then-Governor Eric Greitens halted Williams’ execution hours before it was scheduled, ordering further investigation. Greitens cited new DNA evidence from the murder weapon, which reportedly matched someone other than Williams.

Recently, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell filed a motion to overturn Williams’ murder conviction based on this new DNA evidence. Bell believes Williams may not have been involved in Gayle’s death.

Marcellus Williams (Via Missouri Department of Corrections)

A Missouri law enacted in 2021 allows prosecutors to file such motions if they suspect an inmate may be innocent or was wrongly convicted, triggering a court hearing.

However, a date for the hearing on Bell’s motion has yet to be scheduled. A spokesperson for Bell stated that their office is still processing the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent decisions.

In June 2023, Governor Parson dissolved the inquiry board after it failed to reach a consensus, stating it was time to move forward with the case. The reasons for the board’s inability to reach a decision, comprising five retired judges, remain unclear.

The day after dissolving the board, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey requested the state Supreme Court to set an execution date for Williams.

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