Two men – 76-year-old Clifford Williams and his nephew 61-year-old Nathan Myers – are now free men after spending the last 43 years in prison for a murder they didn’t commit.
But how their case was handled from the jump – when they were 33 and 18 respectfully – shows how much is left to be desired, never mind that Williams was initially sentenced to death.
According to ABC News
, although the witness claimed that she saw flashes from two guns during the 1976 murder, ballistic evidence showed that bullets were only fired from one gun. People at a party nearby claimed they had heard gunshots, but auditory testing proved that would not have been possible.
Speaking of the party, there were multiple people at the birthday celebration down the street from the shooting who could have testified that both Williams and Myers were at the function, but they were not called as witnesses.
Their lawyers never provided any defense in their case during their trial.
However, none of these pieces of evidence, nor the ever-changing story of the witness was considered in the men’s two-day trial.
Both men have long maintained their innocence, to no avail. Myers, who had only recently graduated high school was offered a plea deal if he testified against his uncle but refused.
Now, 43 years after going to prison together for a crime they didn’t commit, both men walked free together on Thursday morning.
“I feel very happy, and very sad that it took 43 years,” Margaret Good, the attorney who Williams during his appeal said.
It was Myers who secured him and his uncle’s freedom in the end. He read an article in prison about a unit in Florida reviewing wrongful state convictions, so he wrote a letter, sharing his and his uncle’s case and also sharing a copy of an affidavit from another person who claimed another man, identified as Nathaniel Lawson who is now dead, had confessed to the murder.
In the end, the Conviction Integrity Review unit released a 77-page report on their case, including all the evidence that was initially never provided to a jury – such as the witnesses that saw the two men at the party.
“While no single item of evidence, in and of itself, exonerates Defendant Myers or Defendant Williams, the culmination of all the evidence, most of which the jury never heard or saw, leaves no abiding confidence in the convictions or the guilt of the defendants,” the report states. “It is the opinion of the CIR that these men would not be convicted by a jury today if represented by competent counsel who presented all of the exculpatory evidence that exists in this case fort the jury’s consideration.”
Myers will be eligible for compensation, as Florida typical offers wrongly imprisoned individuals $50,000 for every year they were wrongfully convicted, although there is a $2,000,000 cap.
“I lost almost 43 years of my life that I can never get back, but I am looking ahead and will focus on enjoying my freedom with my family,” Myers said in a statement.
Williams, since he had two prior felonies before the shooting, is not eligible for compensation.