Photo: Andrés Correa Guatarasma / Courtesy
Nothing similar had ever happened in the Staten Island (NYC) prosecutor’s office: a man’s conviction was thrown out on Thursday after spending 23 years behind bars.
Grant Williams, 50, was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of Shdell Lewis. He had been released on parole in 2019, But before that, his attorney had contacted the Richmond County Attorney’s Office and asked them to look into the case.
The result marked the first time that the Prosecutor’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Review Unit overturned a conviction. “While nothing can give Mr. Williams back all the years he wrongfully lost in prison, the annulment of his conviction and the dismissal of today’s case at least establishes his innocence and finally clears his name ”, said District Attorney Michael E. McMahon.
When reviewing the case, investigators interviewed six new witnesses they were told that Williams was not the gunman who killed Lewis in April 1996. Another witness swore that he had been with Williams the entire night of the shooting at the “WuTang Clan” recording studio.
Just before he was killed, Lewis had just left a building in NYCHA’s Stapleton complex on Staten Island when a man opened fire and wounded him in the back and torso. Officers chased after the pistol. They didn’t catch him, but they did recover a WuTang hat that fell off his head.
Later, Williams requested that a DNA test on the hat, but it had been destroyed during New York Police Department protocol proceedings.
At the time of Lewis’s death, officers described that the attacker was a stocky man, but short (5 feet 5 inches). Unlike Williams, a very tall man (6 feet 2 inches) and also thin. And still he was condemned.
Investigators found several areas where police did not follow best practices while reviewing the case. “As prosecutors, we have the legal obligation and ethical duty to ensure that the right person is convicted of the crime charged, “McMahon was quoted as saying Pix11. “Justice depends on us not only correcting these past mistakes, but rather that we work diligently to prevent them from happening again“.
— Michael E. McMahon (@StatenIslandDA) July 23, 2021
A judge vacated the murder conviction of a Staten Island man who wrongfully served 23 years in prison.
Grant Williams became the first successful wrongful conviction case brought on S.I. https://t.co/5wPVuJFaev
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) July 22, 2021
Staten Island man spent 23 years behind bars for murder he didn’t commit | PIX11 https://t.co/DKgp2974j3
— Ronald (@RonaldMeltzer) July 23, 2021
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.