Capital Punishment Opponents Charge Missouri Attorney General Continues to Press for Wrongful Execution Despite Man’s Clear Innocence 

By Perla Chavez

ST. LOUIS, MOMissourians to Abolish the Death Penalty (MADP) this month described the case of Marcellus Williams, who has been on Missouri’s death row for 24-plus years, and how the Missouri Attorney General asked the state to set an execution date after the stay of execution was lifted by Gov. Mike Parson in June 2023 despite evidence leading elsewhere.

According to its website, MADP has been dedicated to the fight against capital punishment while addressing issues of racial violence and justice. 

Marcellus “Khaliifah” Williams is a devout Muslim father and respected leader/mentor within the incarcerated community at Potosi Correctional Center (PCC), said MADP, noting Williams took the name Khaliifah Ibn Rayford Daniels upon his Shahada and he serves as the Imam at PCC. 

MADP writes that after Lisha Gayle, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter, was fatally stabbed in her home in 1998, Khaliifah was convicted of her murder two years later. However, there’s an absence of any physical or crime scene evidence linking him to the crime.

“In addition, the state presented no motive and used the inconsistent allegations of two incentivized witnesses (informants) as the state’s proof. These witness statements were not only inconsistent with the crime scene, but were also in conflict with one another,” MADP adds. 

Khaliifah was initially set to be executed in 2015, but hours before, the Missouri Supreme Court halted the execution and DNA testing on previously untested evidence was ordered. The 2016 test results completely excluded Williams as a contributor, contradicting the testimonial evidence used to convict him, MADP claims.

The MADP explains that in 2017, hours before Khaliifah’s second scheduled execution, the governor issued a stay of execution based on 2016 DNA test results and established a Board of Inquiry to investigate his innocence. The BOI, composed of legal experts, began a probe in 2018.

However, as described by MADP, the BOI was dissolved in June of 2023 by current Missouri Gov. Parson, and the state Supreme Court was asked by the Missouri Attorney General to set a date of execution. 

Khaliifah’s attorney filed a lawsuit against Gov. Parson in August of 2023 for the dissolution of the BOI and lifting the stay. 

“Gov. Parson dissolved the board before it completed its investigation and provided him with a report and recommendation, as was required by law,” MADP said. Despite evidence of innocence, the Attorney General continues to oppose every innocence claim, even those supported by local prosecutors. 

MADP charges, “The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has opposed every innocence case for the last 30 years, including every attempt made by a local prosecutor to overturn a conviction on the basis of innocence, as the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney is doing in Mr. Williams’s case.” 

MADP notes the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit reviewed the DNA results and moved to vacate Williams’ conviction, citing clear evidence of innocence.

An evidentiary hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 21 in St. Louis County Court in accordance with RSMo 547.031, which grants prosecutors the ability to request a court hearing for credible claims of innocence, MADP said.

About The Author

Perla Chavez is a first-generation college student that has obtained a paralegal certificate from the UCLA Extension Paralegal Program. Her academic journey includes a major in Political Science with a focus on race, ethnicity, and politics at UCLA. Perla has actively contributed to social justice advocacy through internships with CHIRLA and the NAACP. Driven by her passion to recognize inequalities and advocate for the rights of others, Perla aspires to become an immigration lawyer. Apart from her dedication to academics and the legal field, she finds fulfillment in being a volunteer for the city of California City, spending quality time with family, and expressing creativity through painting.

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