NAACP calls on Greitens to commute death sentence on last day in office
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The NAACP is calling on Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) on his last day in office to commute the death-penalty sentence of an African-American man whom Greitens had previously issued a stay of execution.

Greitens's last day as governor is Friday after he announced his resignation earlier this week amid a number of scandals including accusations of sexual misconduct.

In a press release, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson praised the “courageous” step Greitens took last August to stay the execution of Marcellus Williams, who was convicted of murder in 2001, and asked the governor to take one last step for Williams on his last day in office.

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“Last August you took the courageous step to stay Mr. William’s execution, and I ask that you make this decision permanent before leaving office tomorrow,” Johnson said in a statement that called the death penalty “a cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary punishment that has been applied in a racially disparate manner.”

Williams, 48, was convicted of the 1988 murder of Felicia Gayle, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. DNA evidence uncovered in the years following Williams’s trial revealed that Williams’s DNA was not found on the murder weapon, though DNA from another male was found, CNN reported.

Johnson noted in his letter that severe racial gaps exist in Missouri's law enforcement statistics and that Williams was convicted by an all-white jury.

“Several studies have shown that the death penalty is more likely to be imposed when the victim is white. In addition, racial discrimination in jury selection continues to occur in spite of court decisions forbidding the practice,” he said.

Greitens is due to resign Friday over criminal investigations into accusations that he photographed a woman during a sexual encounter without her consent and later threatened to blackmail her, among other allegations of criminal behavior.

The Missouri Republican has denied the charges, but state Republicans had threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if he did not step down.

“This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain on my family,” Greitens said this week. “It’s clear that for the forces that oppose us, there is no end in sight.”