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Aug. 23, 2017JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. |  By: Nienow

Missouri Gov. Greitens issues stay of execution

Marcellus Williams was only a few hours from being executed Tuesday when Missouri Governor Eric Greitens issued a stay, citing new DNA evidence in Williams' capital murder case.

Williams was convicted in the 1998 stabbing death of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle. Recently tested DNA on the knife cited as the murder weapon did not match Williams' DNA, according to his attorneys. The Midwest Innocence Project wrote to the governor asking for the stay. Director of that organization, Tricia Bushnell, says her group is pleased with the governor's decision.

Williams was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday evening. State Attorney General Josh Hawley had argued there was enough non-DNA evidence to uphold Williams' conviction.

Bushnell said there's no clear indication how long it will take an advisory board to review the DNA evidence. The state's case relied primarily on two witnesses she described as having incentive to believe they would benefit by pointing a finger at Williams. Bushnell says too often in murder cases, finality is prioritized over fairness.

In his stay order the governor said, "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."

Greitens' order is online at