Attorney General Steve Marshall applauded the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) for overturning an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate the death sentence of convicted murderer and rapist Marcus Bernard Williams.

Williams confessed to the 1996 murder and posthumous rape of Melanie Rowell of St. Clair County and received the death penalty. In his appeals, Williams argued that he was abused as a child and became a “hypersexual” predator as a result. The 11th-Circuit Court of Appeals then vacated his sentence on the ground that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present the evidence to the jury. 

The state argued to SCOTUS that the jury was also not made aware that Williams attempted another rape weeks after Rowell’s murder and that Williams’ alleged “hypersexual” behavior would not have swayed a jury.

“The Eleventh Circuit granted habeas relief, concluding that Williams was prejudiced because the jury never heard about his childhood abuse and resulting ‘hypersexuality,’” the State’s brief said. “But the jury also never heard that weeks after he killed Rowell, he broke into the home of another woman and tried to rape her. Raising his “hypersexuality” would not have been solely mitigating and would have opened the door to devastating evidence that Williams was a dangerous and unrepentant serial rapist.”

On Monday, SCOTUS vacated the 11th Circuit’s ruling, remanding the case to the lower courts.

“Melanie’s family has waited decades to see justice done for this heinous crime,” Marshall said. “Williams’s backstory cannot excuse the brutal murder and rape of a young single mother as her toddlers slept in the next room. A jury would have easily seen through any desperate attempt by Williams to distract from his vicious crime with stories from his childhood. Marcus Williams’s crimes merit the ultimate punishment, and the Supreme Court’s decision today brings us one step closer to justice.”

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