This coming Monday will mark 5 months to the day that Governor Eric Greitens stayed the execution of Marcellus Williams. With less than 4 hours before Williams was due to be put to death by lethal injection, Greitens listened to the people of Missouri, the United States and the world round.
“A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment,” stated Governor Greitens. “To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgement of guilt.”
A petition that garnered more than 187,000 signatures at the time of Williams’ stay still grows to this day, with more than 272,000 advocates putting their names forward.
The formation of a Board of Inquiry consisting of 5 retired former judges on September. 13, by Gov. Greitens was a rare occurrence. Details set out in Greitens’ Executive Order have put Williams’ fate squarely in the hands of Booker Shaw; Michael David; Peggy Fenner; Carol Jackson and Paul Spinden.
The former judges will report back to Gov. Greitens with their findings. With resources greater than those of the original jury, that found Williams guilty of the murder of Felicia Gayle in 1998 the Board of Inquiry will have DNA findings provided by Professor Greg Hampikian last year. Any other evidence that was not available to Williams’ original jury will also be considered by the retired former judges.
Assessing evidence and coming to an informed opinion should take time. Even more so when a man’s life is at risk. Within the Executive Order, it also clearly states that the Board of Inquiry ‘shall close all of its proceedings and hold all collected information in strict confidence.’ I have no issue with this.
However, I do take issue when there is nothing is being done. Williams’ attorney Kent Gipson stated on November. 29, that “The board has not yet done anything to get the proceeding started.” 10 weeks past its formation and the board has not yet done anything!? At the risk of incurring the wrath of the retired community, why would 5 retired former judges have not done anything? By all means, take a diligent and considered approach, but get the ball rolling. After all, The formation of a Board of Inquiry means absolutely nothing without its implementation. A possibly innocent man waits with the spectre of execution hanging over his head. Is it not cruel to do nothing?
August 22: Execution of Marcellus Williams stayed by Missouri Governor Eric Greitens. Board of Inquiry to look into Williams’ case.
September 13: Board of Inquiry formed. The board to consist of 5 retired former judges.
November 29: Marcellus Williams’ attorney Kent Gipson informs me via email: “Nothing to report. The board has not yet done anything to get the proceeding started.”
December 7: Greg Hampikian Ph.D. Professor of Biology, and Criminal Justice Director of the Idaho Innocence Project informs me via email: “Mr. Gipson should be the first to know. I can tell you that I have not heard anything.” Professor Hampikian provided a DNA analysis report, clearly excluding Marcellus Williams as a contributor of DNA samples taken from the handle of the murder weapon.
Repeated requests for an update from Governor Greitens have fallen on deaf–ears Respect where respect is due, yet Greitens’ initial voice–of–reason regarding Williams’ fate rings less and less true the longer that the concerned public waits for word on the boards activity. Details of their findings are not what is being asked for. Details of them implementing the job that they have been requested is.
Transparency is key. The longer that cases such as that of Marcellus Williams are delayed due to inactivity, the more that such a stay of execution can be deemed a political motive. Recent news of Governor Greitens’ extra–marital affair have no consequence to Williams and are of no personal interest to me either. Williams’ fate is however, and I along with over a quarter–of–a–million people who signed the petition should be afforded an update as to the boards progress.
A little over 7 weeks have passed since I heard from Kent Gipson. It is entirely possible that steps have begun to implement the Boards role. The point being? It is not difficult to keep the public informed. Transparency breeds trust, and trust is something Eric Greitens could likely afford nurturing.
We too, as a concerned public must make a concerted effort to follow through with our convictions. It is all too easy to rest on out laurels once a petition has been signed and a stay of execution has been granted. In reality, a battle may have been won, yet the war is nowhere near over. There is little point driving one’s car to the gas station and not filling it up so–to–speak.
For a backstory to Marcellus Williams’ case during the time of his stay of execution please read:
Will writing an article such as this elicit a response from the Governor? Possibly, but I remain sceptical. Along with DNA analysis by Professors Greg Hampikian and Norah Rudin, 187,000 signatures (at the time of the stay) from a concerned public did though.
The power that the public holds should not be underestimated.
If you signed Marcellus Williams’ petition you have a duty to follow through. Write a letter, send an email. Get in contact with the Governor’s office. The proof is in the pudding. Public opinion does matter and it does make a difference. Yet like the Board of Inquiry, it must be implemented.
Office of Governor Eric Greitens
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: (573) 751-3222
Attorney General Josh Hawley at 573-751-3321
Phone: (573) 751 3321
Or email at:
If you have any questions or queries regarding this article, or indeed anything of interest please contact me here or leave a comment below.