A Staten Island jury convicted Williams in 1997 for the murder of Shdell Lewis the previous year.
Williams, then 25 years old, had been identified as the assailant who wore a black jacket and Wu-Tang Clan hat, which prosecutors placed special emphasis on, given he had been employed at the group’s recording studio. He was sentenced to life in prison, serving 23 years before his conviction was overturned on Thursday July 22.
Ghostface Killah – a close friend of Williams – said the decision to overturn the conviction felt “like a ton of bricks being lifted”, per Staten Island Advance.
“I missed him. When he left, part of me left.”
As reported by The New York Times, following a review by Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon’s Conviction Integrity Review Unit, several witnesses – who had not previously testified at Williams’ trial – were able to provide new information in support of Williams’ innocence.
One witness, a close friend of Lewis and acquaintance of Williams, had been out walking with Lewis the night of his murder, and told police that Williams was not the shooter. Another witness said he was with Williams in another location at the time of the shooting.
McMahon said: “Given the overwhelming amount of exculpatory evidence presented for the first time in this review, as well as a totality of the investigative circumstances in this case, which in several instances defy what we now accept as best practices, we now believe Mr. Williams to actually be innocent and conclude that our justice system failed him.”