A Missouri man has been given a stay of execution with only hours to go before he was due to be killed by lethal injection.

The Missouri governor stayed the execution, planned for 6pm local time (12am GMT) on Tuesday (22 August), of Marcellus Williams following new DNA evidence surrounding the murder case of Lisha Gayle.

In a statement, Eric Geitens said: "A sentence of death is the ultimate, permanent punishment. To carry out the death penalty, the people of Missouri must have confidence in the judgement of guilt. In light of new information, I am appointing a board of inquiry in this case."

Gayle was killed at her St Louis home in 1998 during a robbery.

Attorneys for Williams, 48, say that DNA evidence that was not available during his trial in 2001 showed that he was innocent. It showed an unknown third person's DNA on the murder weapon other than that of Williams and the victim.

However the prosecution said that such evidence did not supersede the non-DNA evidence apparently connecting him to the crime.

Williams' attorneys will appeal to the US Supreme Court for either a new hearing or for his sentence to be commuted to a life term.

They said the conviction was based on the testimony of two convicted felons who were set to get a $10,000 reward.

Marcellus Williams
With only hours to go, Marcellus Williams (48) received a stay from the Missouri governor for the 1998 murder of a St Louis woman. Missouri Department of Corrections