Local Organization Helps Prevent Execution

On Aug. 22, Gov. Greitens moved to stay the execution of Marcellus Williams, a man slated to be executed that evening.

Williams had previously been convicted in the 1998 stabbing of Felicia Gayle in 2001. But as he awaited the date of execution, several organizations and individuals who believe in Williams’ innocence rallied to stop his death.

Esmie Tseng,a recent UMKC graduate, stood among them.

Tseng is an executive assistant at Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), a small nonprofit organization “dedicated to ending the use of the death penalty in the state of Missouri,” according to their site’s description. She spoke about what brought Marcellus’ case to their attention and how it led to their strong belief in his sentence’s injustice.

The court found Williams guilty based on the testimonies of two individuals who came forward after an offering of a financial reward from the victim’s family was made.

Several appeals occurred after the sentencing to reexamine the case, some of which Williams made himself. The Missouri Supreme Court stayed an execution scheduled for 2015 to allow for more DNA testing.

More recent findings discovered no DNA of Williams’ on the murder weapon, and found a bloody footprint and hair fibers from the crime scene also did not belong to Williams.

With the date of execution now rescheduled for this month, Tseng and MADP investigated options to save Williams’ life and prove his innocence. It came down one possible solution: Greiten’s ability to appoint a special Board of Inquiry to reexamine the case.

With that in mind and a ticking clock to face, the organization began to raise awareness.

While local news didn’t express much interest in the story initially, it started to flood social media. MADP encouraged people to sign an online petition, and to call in to the governor’s office.

About a week before the scheduled execution, progress sped forward: MADP spoke with local media to spread the story, more people signed the petition and The Kansas City Star ran an editorial.

As the date of execution arrived, those who believed Williams’ innocence scheduled rallies and planned to show support. By then, the petition had gained 185,000 signatures, a number that has since skyrocketed to 260,000.

After a petition gained over 260,000 signatures Gov. Greitens stayed Williams’ execution (Source Missouri Idea Throw).

After a petition gained over 260,000 signatures Gov. Greitens stayed
Williams’ execution (Source Missouri Idea Throw).

Tseng described presenting the petition to the governor’s office at 12:00 p.m.. Then, she and her coworkers waited.

At 1:37 p.m., they received the call that Greitens had indeed moved to stay the execution. Tseng recalled how they collectively “lost their minds” in celebration.

“It was such an amazing thing,” she said. “It couldn’t have happened if we didn’t work together. But it really shows the power of social media to get the word out and make things happen.”

Though MADP staff breathed a sigh of relief, Tseng highlighted that their work isn’t done.

The findings of the Board of Inquiry and how they advise Greitens will ultimately determine the outcome.

“The fight must continue,” Tseng urged in a statement on MADP’s site.

She also mentioned concern regarding the prosecutor in the case, Bob McCulloch, who was also the chief prosecutor in the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown.

McCulloch recently reaffirmed his certainty that Williams is guilty and will be found as such.

With no set date on a decision being made, Marcellus and others will simply have to wait for the outcome.

Tseng views Marcellus’s story as a call to reexamine the entire institution of capital punishment. She hopes that people continue to hear about Marcellus and consider what the implications of an innocent man so close to a death sentence would mean.

Regardless, one thing has been proven for certain: many voices are stronger than one. If they speak together, the world can’t help but listen.




  1. Marguerite McHale

    September 5, 2017 at 9:24 AM

    Congratulations on success after much hard work. It is indeed terrible if an innocent man has been in prison for a crime he did not commit. I hope you are equally as successful in getting to the bottom of this matter. Although I do believe in the death penalty for certain crimes, there should be overwhelming evidence. Obviously this is not one of those cases. You have done well. You are truly the best of our society and I thank you for your vigilance.

  2. Patricia Oliver

    September 5, 2017 at 9:25 AM

    I cannot understand why the McCulloch guy is so hell bent to kill a possibly innocent man, not that it hasn’t happened before. Why can’t prosecutors admit when they are mistaken. The “justice system” does not appear to be “and justice for all.” Killing a person does not seem to be the answer for a crime and does not bring “closure” to anyone. It compounds the criminal act and often times results in undesirable effects.

    • Daniel Hoover

      September 5, 2017 at 2:59 PM

      I look as most prosecuters as the equivalent of a 19th century gunfighter. They care not about guilt/innocence but only the notches on their guns. Most of them I’ve come in contact with make my skin crawl. They’re all bucking for chief prosecuter, then attorney-general. Lives mean nothing to them, just power.

    • Patrick Latham

      September 6, 2017 at 2:28 AM

      I get the impression that he is probably a ‘White Supremacist’,’Redneck’,’Racist’.

  3. Roshelle Mason

    September 5, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    Every effort should be made to prevent execution including reexamination of the case.

  4. Roseann

    September 5, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    Something does not add up. RECENTLY no dna on murder weapon,bloody foot prints, hair fibers from crime scene. NO DNA of WILLIAMS was found. All of a sudden money is brought up & 2 people come forth. Williams is still considered GUILTY. COMMON SENSE this does not add up. What is wrong with this picture ? You sure this is not a racial issue or something else ?

  5. Norma J F Harrison

    September 5, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    GOOD WORK!!! Norma

  6. Sonya Centeno

    September 5, 2017 at 10:59 AM

    How can they convict someone on eyewitness testimony alone? And why hasn’t the innocence project taken on his case?

  7. Sandra F. Newson

    September 5, 2017 at 1:18 PM

    The Most High God Will Get The Victory Out OF The Freeing OF This Innocent Man.,. Cling To Yah’s Word.,For The Word Says,

    ◄ 2 Chronicles 20:17 ►
    You will not have to fight this battle. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Massiah’s Victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for The Most High God is with you!”
    Keep Praying,.,Keep Believing. SHALOM

  8. Nancy Boderick

    September 5, 2017 at 1:22 PM

    This case needs to be re-examined!!!

  9. Rob Schultheis

    September 5, 2017 at 4:55 PM

    In way too many cases in the past DAs have suppressed evidence in order to “prove” that their initial belief in a defendant’s guilt was correct, even if it costs an innocent person’s life. It’s difficult to believe human beings are capable of such cruelty, but the record shows they are. It’s a shame that “outlaw DAs” and the police officers they collaborate with are not subject to prosecution when their lies are exposed; it leaves a yawning void in our so-called “justice system” when the guardians of the law themselves can run amok with impunity, with no threat of punishment.

  10. German Chaparro

    September 5, 2017 at 8:25 PM

    good luck!

  11. Ellen Naylor

    September 5, 2017 at 8:25 PM

    Nice work leading this initiative, Esmie Tsang, and others you’ve worked with. I hope that Marcellus Williams case is re-examined in light of some questionable testimony, and that his DNA is not on the murder weapon, among other facts. What a shame he’s spent all this time in prison, and was going to be executed, when he is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  12. Amelia Maria Mcmillan

    September 6, 2017 at 1:15 AM

    May GOD wrap his arms around this innocent, VICTIM and protect him from each of satan’s efforts. Let the ALMIGHTY GOD’s voice be SO noticeable that this evil will CEASE.PEACE BE STILL!!! In JESUS’name. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!

  13. Doree Naegele

    September 6, 2017 at 11:54 PM

    So glad I signed that petition. I pray that the case be re-opened. God bless Marcus and his supporters who continue to pray for truth to resolve the situation

  14. Michele Goodwin

    September 15, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    I am glad I could help by signing the petition. What I don’t get is if his DNA is not on anything no match then it has to be someone elses DNA. How the hell do you give a man a death penalty with no evedense except someone wanting the money the family put up. I sure hope they get this figured out right because if he is innocent and they put him to death that is murder !!!

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