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St. Louis prosecutor’s support of death sentence angers minority community

St. Louis prosecutor’s support of death sentence angers minority community


The execution of Marcellus Williams has been indefinitely delayed, but anger at the actions of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.

McCulloch has repeatedly said that Williams should be executed, despite newly discovered evidence that he may not have been responsible for the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle because his DNA wasn’t on the murder weapon and another man’s DNA was.

The NAACP’s St. Louis chapter and Missouri conference have condemned McCulloch, saying that he needs to do more to ensure equal justice for all races.

Williams was scheduled to die last month but Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued a stay of execution hours before the execution was scheduled to occur. A five-member board appointed by Greitens will now review the case.

But McCulloch remains convinced that Williams is guilty and should be executed, telling the Associated Press hours before Greitens stopped the execution that he has seen zero evidence that suggests Williams is innocent.

“I am confident that any board and the governor, after a full review of all evidence and information, will reach the same conclusion reached by the jury and the various courts,” McCulloch said in a written statement after the execution was delayed.

That insistence of guilt has frustrated many.

Nimrod Chapel Jr., head of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP said McCulloch’s attitude is part of a pattern.

“It’s not all prosecutors, but there are those who we believe are not living up to their ethical obligations to seek justice,” Chapel said. “They’re merely looking for a conviction. We should make sure that the people who are paying the ultimate penalty are actually guilty before we ask them to pay that penalty.”

Kenny Murdoch, head of the St. Louis County chapter of the NAACP, praised Greitens for calling off the execution, but said McCulloch’s continuing defense of the death sentence has frustrated and scared the minority community.

“We applaud [Greiten], but then to be betrayed by a prosecutor, that brings fear back into the community,” Murdoch said. “We’re trying not only to ease racial tensions, we’re trying to give hope that this community can stay together.”

McCulloch has also been critical of the DNA evidence. Williams’s lawyers have said that an independent DNA analysis of the knife that stabbed Gale 43 times shows the DNA of an unknown man, but no trace of Williams’s DNA.

But McCulloch dismissed that in an interview with 90.7, St. Louis Public Radio, saying that the DNA evidence was “not of sufficient quantity or quality to identify or exclude anyone.”

The national NAACP had previously called for McCulloch to be replaced after charges were not brought against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown.