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Midwest Innocence Project asks Missouri governor to halt Tuesday's execution

Updated at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 21 with governor's office declining comment — A nonprofit that seeks to overturn wrongful convictions has asked Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to put Tuesday’s scheduled execution on hold.

The Midwest Innocence Project said new DNA evidence presented last week shows Marcellus Williams didn’t kill former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle in 1998.

Williams’ attorney, Kent Gipson, asked the state Supreme Court last week to consider two new tests, which he said show that Williams’ DNA was not on the knife used in Gayle’s death. The court  denied the request for a stay of execution. Gipson asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay on Sunday; it has not responded.

Midwest Innocence Project Director Tricia Bushnell told St. Louis Public Radio on Sunday that the organization wants Greitens to appoint a board of inquiry to look into the new evidence.

“This is a case that has so many questions in it, and the reality is, Mr. Williams has DNA evidence that says it is not him on the murder weapon, and no one has even let him have a hearing on those results,” she said. “It seems impossible that we would execute someone, put someone to death, when there is a question that large, without even giving them a hearing. … This question has a number of the hallmarks that we see in wrongful convictions.”

Bushnell also was critical of the prosecution in the case, which was done in St. Louis County because Gayle was killed in University City. She said the prosecution relied on “what we would call 'incentivized informants.'"

In 2003, the state Supreme Court upheld Williams' conviction, saying there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion. Greitens spokesman Parker Briden declined to comment on Monday. St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch didn’t immediately return requests for comment. 

Williams' original execution in 2015 was postponed. He is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday.

Follow Erica on Twitter: @ehunzinger

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Erica Hunzinger is the news editor for the Kansas News Service.
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