St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell Files Motion to Overturn Marcellus Williams’ Wrongful Death Row Conviction

Evidence of Mr. Williams’ innocence could be heard in court.

Urgent 01.29.24 By Innocence Project and Midwest Innocence Project Staff

Marcellus Williams. (Image: Courtesy of Marcellus Williams’ legal team)

Marcellus Williams has spent 24 years of his life on death row despite DNA evidence supporting his innocence. (Image: Courtesy of Marcellus Williams’ legal team)

Updated on June 4, 2024:

The Missouri Supreme Court scheduled Marcellus Williams to be executed on Sept. 24, 2024 at 6 p.m. for a 1998 murder — despite DNA evidence supporting his innocence.

After the news broke, attorneys for Mr. Williams released a statement: 

“The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney has asserted that he has clear and convincing evidence that Marcellus Williams is innocent. It is alarming that an execution date has been set in spite of this. To date, no court has ever reviewed the DNA evidence proving Mr. Williams was not the individual who wielded the murder weapon and committed this crime. Yet, the State successfully sought an execution date, highlighting the system’s emphasis on finality over innocence. That is not justice. We will continue to fight for Mr. Williams’ exoneration and seek a hearing on the prosecutor’s motion to vacate.”

For more than 20 years, Marcellus Williams has lived under a death sentence for a crime he did not commit. He has always asserted his innocence, which is supported by physical evidence. Mr. Williams was not the source of the bloody footprints found at the scene nor the unknown hairs that were left behind. In 2016, DNA testing proved he was not the source of the DNA left on the murder weapon. That DNA belongs to an unknown male. Yet, no court has ever considered all of this evidence together. Mr. Williams, therefore, has sat on death row for decades as punishment for a crime someone else committed.

In 2017, however, on the eve of Mr. Williams’ scheduled execution, Gov. Eric Greitens provided some hope for justice when he appointed a board of inquiry to review all of this evidence and make a recommendation as to whether he should use his clemency powers to overturn Mr. Williams’ conviction or reduce his sentence. That hope was dashed last June, when Gov. Mike Parson improperly dissolved the board before it could finish its work and Attorney General Andrew Bailey moved to set an execution date. The possibility that the state of Missouri could execute an innocent man did not matter to them. That is not justice.

But hope for justice has now been restored. We are grateful to St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell and his office for reviewing the evidence and filing a motion asking the St. Louis County Circuit Court to overturn Mr. Williams’ conviction, providing a long awaited avenue for all of the evidence of Mr. Williams’ innocence to finally be heard. We encourage other prosecutors to follow this example and act to correct injustices that have occurred in their jurisdiction as required by their ethical duties.

We are confident that any full and fair process will lead to the inevitable conclusion – that Mr. Williams is innocent and his conviction must be overturned.

Mr. Wiliams is represented by the Innocence Project, Midwest Innocence Project, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, the Federal Public Defender Capital Habeas Unit in Kansas City, and attorney Kent Gipson. 

About the Midwest Innocence Project: The Midwest Innocence Project is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to representing people convicted of crimes they did not commit in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska; supporting and empowering freed and exonerated people post-release; and changing the system to prevent wrongful convictions in the first place. The MIP is a member of the Innocence Network, an affiliation of 72 similar organizations around the world, and is a distinct and separate organization from the Innocence Project in New York. For more information, please visit

About the Innocence Project: The Innocence Project works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone. Founded in 1992 by Barry C.Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the organization is now an independent nonprofit. Its work is guided by science and grounded in anti-racism.

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