State prepares to execute its second inmate of 2017

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Attorneys for an African-American inmate scheduled for execution Tuesday warn that the state is preparing to kill a potentially innocent man.

Marcellus Williams, 48, was convicted of fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle, 42, during a robbery at her home in the suburb of University City. If the state follows through with his death sentence at the prison in Bonne Terre, it would be Missouri’s second execution this year.

Williams’ attorneys have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a new hearing or the commutation of his sentence to life in prison. They’ve also asked Republican Gov. Eric Greitens for clemency but have not heard anything back.

Attorney Kent Gipson claims that DNA testing conducted in December, using methods that were not obtainable at the time of the killing, showed DNA found on the knife matches an unknown male who is not Williams. He also cited previous DNA testing of hairs found on Gayle’s shirt and fingernails that also excluded Williams, as well as footprints at the scene that did not match Williams’.

The new evidence “means in our mind, the actual killer is not him,” Gipson told The Associated Press last week.

Loree Anne Paradise, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Hawley, said the office remains assured that Williams is guilty based on other evidence provided in the case.

Gipson said Williams’ conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons who were out for a $10,000 reward. One was Williams’ former girlfriend and the other was his former cellmate.

Gayle was stabbed numerous times on Aug. 11, 1998, after surprising the burglar in her home.

In addition to the murder conviction, Williams is also serving consecutive terms of life in prison for robbery, and 30 years each for burglary and weapons crimes.

The only other execution in the state this year was in January when Mark Christeson was put to death for killing a woman and her two children.

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