Since Missouri Governor Eric Greitens stayed the execution of Marcellus Williams in August of last year, news from Greitens’ elected Board of Inquiry has been slow to materialise.
No longer. Carol Jackson—a former judge at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, and appointed chairwoman of a board consisting of 5 retired judges—spoke with the St.Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month. Details of the board’s progress will likely be well received by members of the public—of which more than 270,000 had signed a petition to stay Williams’ execution—concerned with an apparent lack of updates regarding his case.
Jackson informed the Dispatch that the board had already met twice since its formation. The first meeting, in November of 2017 served to acquaint the board members with details pertaining to Williams’ original trial—including trial transcripts totalling some 3000 pages—and subsequent appeals. Of particular note in relation to Williams’ appeals were DNA reports provided by Greg Hampikian and Norah Rudin, that both excluded Williams from being a contributor of the DNA found on the knife used to murder Lisha Gayle in 1998.
The board met once more in March of this year to discuss their findings, and due to the substantial volume of documents, and serious nature of Williams’ case, the 5 former judges have understandably chosen to be fastidious in their work.
The next scheduled meeting for the Board of Inquiry looks likely to be key. Set for June. 5th, parties for both the defence and the state will be subpoenaed to discuss Williams’ case.
Speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jackson noted, “I think all of us have questions about the information that we’ve received. We just really want to get some clarification from them and give them the opportunity to present their best case to us.”
The board’s powers of subpoena relate not only to persons, but also to things. Gov. Greitens Executive Order furnished the panel with the ability to subpoena documents possibly not made available at Williams’ original trial and unbeknown to the members of his jury.
Kent Gipson—Williams’ attorney—informed the Dispatch, “What we’re wanting to do is to be able to present testimony like in a trial. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen.”
Word from Jackson is to be welcomed. Access to the inner workings of the board’s investigation has never been asked for. Being privy to the knowledge that progress is being made—and that Gov. Greitens Executive Order is being implemented—has.
Jackson’s update on proceedings is key to not only transparency, but most importantly trust. Jackson affirming that, “We are mindful of the interest in having this issue resolved as expeditiously as possible—[w]e are all committed to working as quickly as we can.” perhaps didn’t quite hit the mark however. Taking the necessary time to be thorough should clearly be applauded, yet it is the necessary time that should also be afforded to keeping the public abreast of progress made, that was increasingly becoming an issue. Cynicism can likely be attributed to the lack of patience when waiting for news relating to legal matters, but this cynicism is often well founded.
Of further potential significance is the status of Eric Greitens Governorship. Once the board has collected its evidence, it is their duty to report and recommend whether Williams should be executed or have his death sentence commuted. Greitens’ travails have been much publicised of late, and with them his future is possibly uncertain.
Word from the Governor’s legal counsel, Lucinda Luetkemeyer stated, “The governor’s office wants the Board of Inquiry to take as much time as it wants to complete a fair and thorough report. There really is no time frame. The governor has complete confidence in the committee and the progress they’ve made thus far.”
The time frame for the Board of Inquiry to “[c]omplete a fair and thorough report,” may not be at issue here, yet the time frame for Eric Greitens to still be Governor once they have, may well be.
Many thanks to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for without whose article, this one would not have been possible. For their excellent and most informative article please link here.
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