Grant Williams was wrongly imprisoned for 23 years for a murder he did not commit, and now New York City will pay him $7 million.
Irving Cohen, the attorney for Williams, said New York City “did the right thing…This will assist him in going forward and trying to get back on his feet.”
After both parties settled, Brad Lander, New York City Comptroller, released the following statement, “While no amount of money can bring those years back for Mr. Williams or his family, I am pleased that we were able to move quickly to a fair and early resolution of this claim…The early resolution of this claim is in the best interests of all parties and city taxpayers.”
The settlement closes a chapter for Williams, now 51-years-old, that began in 1996 when he was accused of killing Shdell Lewis outside a Staten Island public housing complex. Somehow, Williams was convicted by prosecutors “without a confession, a murder weapon, or ‘any significant evidence,’ and police ignored a witness who explicitly told them Mr. Williams was not the shooter,” per the comptroller’s office.
Williams always maintained his innocence, and in 2017 there was the emergence of new evidence. The Staten Island District Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit decided “to re-investigate the case,” and Williams’ alibi was re-checked. Williams said that he was in the studio on the day in question, recording with the Wu-Tang Clan.
Prosecutors tried to suggest that “a baseball cap emblazoned with the logo of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan” left at the scene had a connection to Williams. However, the cap was never DNA tested to solidify such a claim. Notably, Wu-Tang Clan hails from Staten Island. His lawyer noted that many Staten Islanders were proud to don their hometown rap group’s paraphernalia, so there was no telling how many might have had those hats on at the time.
Williams was granted parole in October 2019 based on that evidence. In July 2021, the Richmond County Supreme Court overturned his conviction, reports The Independent. The state of New York also recently settled a separate claim from Williams for $5 million.”
Speaking outside of the courthouse, Williams said, “I used to tell everybody in prison I’m innocent…They say, ‘Oh Williams, everybody says that.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you the truth. One day you’re gonna see me on the news, and they’re gonna say that I was innocent,’ and today’s that day” once the judge vacated his 1997 conviction.
When he was exonerated, Ghostface Killah, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, “stood by his side at his press conference…[telling reporters]” He left, a part of me left…So it was never really the same again.”