Marcellus Williams, a St. Louis man who was to face execution on January 28 for a murder that took place in 1998, will not be put to death on that date after all. Though the date was set only recently, the warrant for Williams’ execution has now been withdrawn. An attorney for Marcellus is still calling for further testing of evidence found at the scene, which Williams believes will prove his innocence.
According to MissouriNet, Williams’ lawyer petitioned for the execution to be cancelled and for further testing of the evidence from the crime scene. The evidence in question consists of hairs that were found at the crime scene. Though they were studied under a microscope, the hairs were not tested for DNA. They were already determined not to match Marcellus Williams, victim Felicia Gayle, or Gayle’s husband. Williams’ request for DNA testing was denied in 2007 on the basis that, according to the court, DNA testing of this evidence could not exonerate Williams, and his petition to have the execution delayed or cancelled until DNA could be tested has also been denied, on the basis that Williams didn’t actively pursue DNA testing after the denial in 2007.
Now, according to STL Today, a stay of execution has been issued for Williams. Despite the previous denial, the court may have stalled Williams’ execution in order to give him the chance to make his case.
Williams would have been the first person to be executed in Missouri in 2015. He would have been put to death by lethal injection, a method that has seen new controversy in recent years, due to several cases in which a convict was said to suffer excessively during death.
Aside from the nationwide issues with lethal injection, the ACLU alleged in September, 2014, Missouri officials knowingly lied and misrepresented not only the effects of the drug used, but the fact that they used it at all — that a Missouri Department of Corrections Director, George Lombardi, promised under oath that midazolam, the drug used in several of the same executions that were said to involve excess suffering, was not used, yet the drug was used in multiple executions after that sworn oath.
Despite all this, Marcellus Williams would have been the 13th prisoner to be executed in Missouri since November of 2013.
The court has not stated exactly what led to the stay of execution for Marcus Williams — his request for DNA testing, the controversy over lethal injection, the ACLU’s pursuit of officials for promises related to lethal injection, or some combination of these factors.