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Missouri Supreme Court Halts Execution Scheduled For Next Week

Marcellus Williams' execution was postponed in August.
Missouri Department of Corrections

On Thursday, The Missouri Supreme Court withdrew an execution warrant and granted a stay for a man who was scheduled to be put to death next week. The court would give no indication why it had done so.

Marcellus Williams was scheduled to be executed Jan. 28 for the 1998 robbery and murder of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in her University City home.

Williams maintains he is innocent of the crime and asked St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to  do additional DNA tests on evidence that he says would prove his innocence. When McCulloch declined, Williams asked federal and state courts to intervene.

"I think this is a signal they're going to do something, rather than summarily dismiss it like they do in most of these types of cases," Kent Gipson, Williams' attorney said. He added, though, that "it remains to be seen how they're going to deal with the requests for DNA testing."

The Missouri Supreme Court sets execution dates. In this case, the court withdrew the warrant, which is an important distinction from granting a stay. A court can grant and then remove a stay later and still have the execution proceed on time. But by withdrawing the warrant, the state court would now have to set a new date if it later decides Williams should be executed.

"When I spoke with Marcellus, he had just found about it from the Department of Corrections and he was being moved out of solitary confinement," Gipson said. The department moves death row inmates into solitary when they get their execution dates. "In fact, we had to cut our call short because they were moving him back into general population."

Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter@csmcdaniel