It is inconceivable that a person can be sentenced to prison without any physical evidence tying them to a crime. How many people (and disproportionately Black people) have to spend years and even decades in prison for crimes they didn’t commit before people involved in our justice system realize they need more than faulty witness testimony and a (racist) hunch to convict someone who is truly guilty?
How much settlement money do taxpayers need to be burdened with before legal officials come to glory on the fact that changes need to be made to the process in which a person goes from suspect to convict?
Last year, 51-year-old Grant Williams was exonerated in the 1996 shooting of Shdell Lewis outside a Staten Island public housing complex, according to the Associated Press. Grant had spent 23 years in prison for the crime before he was paroled in 2019. Then last July he was cleared of all charges and now, NYC has agreed to pay him $7 million for his pain and suffering.
Grant just handed to be a studio worker for one of the most legendary rap groups in Hip Hop history. Here’s how he ended up in prison for a killing he wasn’t responsible for, as reported by AP:
The case against Williams had rested largely on the testimony of a couple of eyewitnesses. One was a police officer who chased the gunman — and initially gave a description that didn’t match Williams.
Prosecutors at his trial also sought to suggest a connection between Williams and a baseball cap that the shooter dropped at the scene, though the hat was never tested for DNA that could have pointed to its wearer. It was emblazoned with the logo of Wu-Tang Clan. Williams had worked at the multiplatinum-selling rap group’s Staten Island studio, but his lawyer notes that there was no telling how many hometown fans might have had Wu-Tang Clan hats at the time.
No physical, forensic or digital evidence tied Williams to the crime, and some witnesses testified that he wasn’t the gunman.
First of all, finding Wu-Tang apparel in Staten Island is like finding someone in a Spiderman t-shirt during a Marvel movie premiere. Secondly, why wasn’t the cap tested for DNA considering the fact that there was no additional evidence outside of the testimony of a cop and another witness who gave descriptions that didn’t even match Williams? Lastly, WHEN WILL THE JUSTICE SYSTEM STOP TAKING A COP’S WORD AT FACE VALUE?
Anyway, William—who also won a $5million settlement in a separate claim, according to his attorney, Irving Cohen—is not only free, but he’s apparently being reasonably well-compensated for years of his life that was stolen from him, not that a price can really be put on an individual’s freedom.
“This will assist him in going forward and trying to get back on his feet,” Cohen said.
More from AP:
Williams unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for years before Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon’s office agreed to review it. Prosecutors ultimately joined Williams in seeking the dismissal of his conviction, saying they now believe he’s innocent.
Williams told reporters at the time that he never lost faith that he would be exonerated and used to tell other inmates they’d see it on the news someday.
“And today is that day,” he said with relatives, supporters and friends including Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah by his side.
It’s a wonderful thing that Williams has been set free and cleared of all charges, but this should never have happened in the first place. Imagine how many inmates who ended up in prison under similar circumstances are falling through the cracks.