Published: Tue, August 22, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Attorneys for condemned Missouri man seek halt to execution

Attorneys for condemned Missouri man seek halt to execution

Attorneys for a convicted murderer scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday say the state of Missouri may be preparing to execute an innocent man. Williams' case has drawn recent attention - and a petition with more than 150,000 supporters - over what his lawyers say is crucial DNA evidence discovered on the knife used in the 1998 slaying of Lisha Gayle, a former Post-Dispatch reporter.

Williams' attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in a desperate last bid to save their client's life, asking for a new hearing or for the commutation of his sentence to life in prison. "This is unprecedented", Williams' attorney, Kent Gipson, told Al-Jazeera.

Since his conviction, Williams has maintained his innocence, and now his lawyers say there may be evidence to prove his claims. Previous testing of hairs found on Gayle's shirt and under her fingernails also exclude Williams, and a shoe print at the scene isn't Williams' either.

If the execution - scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday - goes as planned, Williams' son said the state will be murdering an "innocent" man, he told CNN.

"It would not have been unreasonable for (Williams) to wear gloves during the burglary and subsequent murder", prosecutors wrote in a court filing, to explain why his DNA was not on the knife. "In this brutal attack ...the repeated force and friction likely caused transfer from perpetrator's hand to handle, especially since a struggle was indicated".

The Missouri Supreme Court disagreed, allowing the execution to go ahead. Some of the victim's belongings were also found in a vehicle Williams drove the day she was killed.

"Our office is confident in Marcellus Williams' guilt and plans to move forward", Loree Anne Paradise, deputy chief of staff for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, said.

The Springfield Chapter of the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will sponsor a peaceful protest and remembrance of victims of violent crime today at 12 noon on Park Central Square. They claim race was a factor in the conviction of Williams, who is African American.

Gayle, 42, was stabbed repeatedly on August 11, 1998, after surprising the burglar in her home. One of the testifiers was the inmate's ex-girlfriend and the other, a former cellmate.

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