Mo. governor gives last-minute stay due to DNA

Photo courtesy of Harrison Lott | There are currently 31 states that have the death penalty legalized and 19 without it. Ohio has already executed one person in 2017, the first execution in three years. There are three more people scheduled to die this year.

Marcellus Williams was not put to death by the state of Missouri. Williams, 48, was scheduled to be killed at 7p.m. on Tuesday until Missouri Gov. Eric Grietens issued a stay of the execution only hours before the event after his attorneys brought forth DNA evidence that they claim was unavailable during his 2001 trial.

“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” Grietens said in a press release on Tuesday afternoon. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a Board of Inquiry in this case.”

The death penalty is already a controversial issue and Missouri is one of 31 states with it legalized. Ohio is also one of those 31 states, and put a man to death in July of this year, the first person executed in Ohio since 2014. There are three more people scheduled to be executed in Ohio this year, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

“I don’t think that we should execute people,” junior psychology major Sequoia Patterson-Johnson said. “I think it’s odd that we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong. That would confuse the s*** out of a 4-year-old.”

Williams was tried in 2001 for allegedly stabbing Felicia Gayle, a former reporter, to death 43 times and found guilty. He has been on death row since then. He received a stay of execution in 2015 as well, which allowed his lawyers time to get the DNA testing on the murder weapon completed. The new evidence revealed that there is no DNA from Williams on the weapon. There is, however, DNA from another male.

“I think it’s good that they’re letting him bring new evidence to court,” Patterson-Johnson said. “A lot of times that doesn’t happen, they just keep ignoring their pleas. When they file grievances, it usually doesn’t get them anywhere.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office had previously planned to continue on with the execution, saying that the other evidence was good enough to prove without a doubt that Williams was guilty, according to CNN.

“Based on the other, non-DNA, evidence in this case, our office is confident in Marcellus Williams’ guilt,” Loree Anne Paradise, the deputy chief of staff for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said.

According to CNN, the non-DNA evidence Paradise is referring to is a laptop and other personal items that belonged to Gayle and her husband. The laptop was found in the trunk of Williams’ car and he allegedly pawned the other items. Other evidence includes testimony from two associates of Williams at the time, who said that he confessed the murder to them.

However, forensic DNA expert and biologist Greg Hampikian, who was hired by the defense, says that the DNA evidence ought to change the situation.

“(The DNA on the knife])isn’t enough to incriminate someone, but it is enough to exclude somebody,” Hampikian said. “It’s like finding a Social Security card with some blurred numbers. There’s still enough there to at least exclude someone.”

By: Kevin Thomas ~Campus News Editor~