With only hours to spare, the execution of a convicted murderer was stayed by the governor of Missouri, CNN reports. According to the Washington Post, 48-year-old Marcellus Williams was convicted in 2001 of the 1998 murder of Felicia Gayle, who was stabbed 43 times in her home. But attorneys for Williams say new evidence—namely DNA found on the murder weapon—provides “conclusive scientific evidence that another man committed this crime.” On Tuesday, Gov. Eric Greitens issued a stay of execution and formed a five-person Board of Inquiry to look into the matter. "A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment," Greitens says. "To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgment of guilt."
The decision was celebrated by a group of protesters at the Missouri Capitol, the AP reports. And a lawyer for the Innocence Project says they are "relieved and grateful." Attorneys for Williams say DNA on the murder weapon doesn't match Williams but belongs to an unidentified person. Regardless, the Missouri Attorney General's Office had been pushing for the execution to go ahead as planned, stating the DNA evidence isn't enough to prove Williams' innocence in the face of other evidence, including testimonies from Williams' girlfriend and a man he was imprisoned with. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch says there is "zero possibility" that Williams is not responsible for Gayle's murder. (Read more execution stories.)