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Missouri Supreme Court sets execution date for Marcellus Williams

Rici Hoffarth
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Supreme Court has set a Sept. 24 execution date for Marcellus Williams, despite the fact that prosecutors no longer believe he is guilty and have filed a motion to throw out the case.

The Missouri Supreme Court has set an execution date for a St. Louis man who was convicted of a 1998 murder.

The order, issued by all members of the state high court, comes despite the fact that prosecutors in St. Louis County no longer believe Marcellus Williams is guilty.

Williams has always maintained his innocence in the stabbing death of former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in her home. He has twice come close to execution, in 2015 and 2017. The second time, then-Gov. Eric Greitens appointed a board of inquiry to examine the case.

Nearly a year ago, Gov. Mike Parson dissolved that board. Attorneys for Williams sued, arguing that Parson did not have the authority to do so because its members had not issued required recommendations. While that suit was pending, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell filed a motion to throw out Williams’ conviction. It was the first time a prosecutor had used a 2021 state law when the defendant was on death row.

But in a ruling handed down Tuesday just hours before it issued the execution warrant, the Supreme Court said Parson could dissolve the board, opening the path for Williams to be executed.

“I never anticipated the state would move forward when there was an active process,” said state Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, the author of the bill that created the ability for prosecutors to address wrongful convictions.

The execution is set for Sept. 24. Michael Wolff, a former state Supreme Court judge, noted that the time frame is usually much shorter. He said that could be the judges telling the lower court hearing the motion to vacate to “get your buns in gear.”

Attorneys for Marcellus Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.