By Sharee Silerio

If we didn’t know before, Ava DuVernay’s documentary film “13th” laid it all out for the world to see. The United States justice system is anything but fair, and has become a new form of slavery.

Countless men and women around the nation have gone to prison and/or died for crimes they didn’t commit.

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Thankfully, a Missouri man scheduled to be executed on August 22 will get another chance to prove his innocence.

Yesterday, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens halted the execution of Marcellus Williams, who was convicted of fatally stabbing former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Lisha Gayle during a burglary at her suburban St. Louis home in 1998.

In an executive order, the governor said that he was issuing a stay of execution for Williams after DNA raised questions about his guilt.

Williams’ attorneys cited DNA evidence found on the murder weapon that matched another unknown person, but not Williams’.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who also led the grand jury proceedings for Darren Wilson after he killed Mike Brown in 2014, said that there is plenty other evidence to convict Williams, and that there is “zero possibility” that he is innocent.

Greitens said that he will appoint a five-member board of inquiry including retired judges, who will make a recommendation to the governor regarding whether or not Williams should be executed.

Wrongful convictions aren’t new to the state of Missouri. In 2013, ABC 17 News reported that since 1991, 29 Missouri men and women walked free from prison due to exonerations.

During the 1980s and 1990s, several Black men and women in St. Louis were convicted of crimes of which they have either been deemed innocent of committing or are still fighting for their innocence.

Examples are Ellen Reasonover (convicted in 1983, exonerated in 1999, Bob McCulloch was also the prosecutor), Reginald “Reggie” Clemons (convicted in 1993, conviction overturned in 2015, currently imprisoned), Leron Hornaday (convicted in 1997, currently imprisoned), and more.

With the help of a 259,000 supporter petition, St. Louis activists, national social justice figures like Shaun King, and music stars like Big Boi, Williams gets another chance at proving that he, too, was wrongly convicted.

Have you had a chance to watch the film “13th”? What do you think about Williams’ case?
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Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts for SincerelySharee.com, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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