Midwest Innocence Project argues Missouri death row inmate is innocent

The Midwest Innocence Project files a petition to reinstate a Board of Inquiry in the case...
The Midwest Innocence Project files a petition to reinstate a Board of Inquiry in the case against Marcellus Williams.(Missouri Department of Corrections)
Published: Aug. 24, 2023 at 3:55 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 24, 2023 at 5:28 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The Midwest Innocence Project argues a Missouri inmate on death row is innocent and the state is moving forward with his execution despite previous concerns which have not been resolved.

The newly filed petition names Missouri Governor Michael Parson and Attorney General Andrew Bailey as defendants.

Marcellus Williams is convicted of the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle. Gayle was a former St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter turned social worker. She was attacked in her home in University City in suburban St. Louis. Police believed robbery was the motive.

The death investigation showed Gayle was stabbed 43 times, and the killer left the kitchen knife used in her death in her neck.

In the petition, attorney Tricia Rojo Bushnell argues, “Modern testing proves that Marcellus Williams’s DNA is not the DNA on the murder weapon; his shoes did not make the bloody impressions at the crime scene; and the hairs recovered from around Ms. Gayle’s body did not come from Mr. Williams.”

The case against Williams

Williams was convicted primarily on the testimony of two people. One claimed Williams confessed to him while both were jailed on unrelated charges. The other was a former girlfriend of Williams’s, Laura Asaro.

The petition states that both witnesses were paid for testimony and were given “favorable treatment” in resolving outstanding legal cases.

Former Governor Eric Greitens issued a last-minute stay of execution in 2017 and initiated a Board of Inquiry to look into the case. But less than a year later, while the investigation was ongoing, Greitens resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Governor Parson takes over

Earlier this year, Governor Mike Parson rescinded Greitens’ Executive order and dissolved the Board of Inquiry for Marcellus Williams.

“This Board was established nearly six years ago, and it’s time to move forward,” Governor Parson said at that time. “We could stall and delay for another six years, deferring justice, leaving a victim’s family in limbo and solving nothing.”

The governor’s action removed the stay of execution for Williams.

Petition filed by Midwest Innocence Project

In the Petition for Declaratory Relief, the Midwest Innocence Project argues that Parson’s Executive Order should be invalidated. It argues that the governor doesn’t have the authority to disband a Board of Inquiry while the investigation is continuing.

In the petition, Williams’ attorneys argue that Parson’s action “violated Mr. Williams’s right to the due process of law guaranteed under the Missouri and United States Constitutions.” And that Williams was deprived of his federal due process rights.

“It would be a violation of Mr. William’s right to the due process of law guaranteed under the Missouri and United States Constitutions and a violation of the open courts provision of the Missouri Constitution to execute Mr. Williams before he can challenge the dissolution of the Board of Inquiry,” according to the petition.

Attorney General response

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey was quick to respond to the suit. His office released this statement Thursday afternoon:

My office will always unabashedly pursue justice for victims. In this case, that looks like carrying out the lawful sentence and judgment handed down by the Court.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey