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Staten Island man’s murder conviction tossed after 23 years in prison

A Staten Island man who spent 23 years behind bars was lastly cleared Thursday after his botched homicide conviction was tossed out.

Grant Williams, 50, turned and hugged his legal professionals in court docket as State Supreme Court docket Justice Wayne Ozzi vacated his 1997 conviction, as supporters applauded within the courtroom.

He flashed a thumbs-up as he left the room.

“Nothing I can say can undo 25 years of that nightmare,” Ozzi advised him. “I hope it’s a vibrant future for you.”

Williams was charged within the April 5, 1996, taking pictures loss of life of Shdell Lewis exterior a Staten Island housing venture and located responsible by a jury in November 1997, prosecutors mentioned. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in jail.

However the case was based mostly solely on the testimony of 1 witness and an NYPD cop — and ignored different witnesses that gave Williams an alibi the evening of the taking pictures.

Till now.

“Given the overwhelming quantity of exculpatory proof offered for the primary time on this overview, in addition to a totality of the investigative circumstances on this case, which in a number of situations defy what we now settle for as finest practices, we now consider Mr. Williams to really be harmless and conclude that our justice system failed him,” Staten Island DA Michael McMahon mentioned in a press release Thursday.

Grant Williams next to his lawyer.
Grant Williams was charged within the April 5, 1996 taking pictures loss of life of Shdell Lewis exterior a Staten Island housing venture and located responsible by a jury in November 1997.
Gabriella Bass

The mishandling of the case started a couple of half-hour after the taking pictures when a 17-year-old witness on the Stapleton public housing advanced advised cops it doubtless concerned a turf warfare and a gangbanger nicknamed “Boo Boo.”

Williams, who was then on parole, was discovered to have the identical nickname — though investigators later reviewing the case questioned the teenager’s declare.

The actual gunman, who eluded police on the scene, was additionally described by cops as a stocky black man about 5-foot-5 — in stark distinction to Williams, who’s a 6-foot-2 light-skinned black man and “very skinny,” prosecutors mentioned.

Grant Williams hugs his family.
The case was based mostly solely on the testimony of 1 witness and an NYPD cop, and ignored different witnesses that gave Williams an alibi the evening of the taking pictures.
Gabriella Bass

Police additionally spoke to a “household buddy” who was with Lewis when he was shot and advised cops that Williams was not the shooter — a element that by no means surfaced at trial.

Williams was ultimately tracked down in Virginia and extradited to New York in October 1996, along with his homicide trial starting in November 1997.

After his arrest, Williams was positioned in a lineup that solely included the 2 witnesses who had recognized him from a photograph array — together with one of many cops on the scene who gave the preliminary description of the shooter.

Grant Williams poses with his legal team.
Grant Williams’ case is the primary wrongful conviction case to be overturned on Staten Island.
Gabriella Bass

After the case went to the jury, the panel despatched the choose a observe saying they had been “hopelessly deadlocked,” however the choose despatched the jurors again. They returned a responsible verdict in lower than an hour, the DA’s workplace mentioned.

In his enchantment in 2000, Williams requested {that a} “WuTang” cap dropped by the gunman on the scene be examined for DNA — however police had already destroyed the cap with out it being examined.

Williams’ legal professionals additionally uncovered further proof and witnesses, together with a number of who mentioned he was at a recording studio on the time of the taking pictures.

The legal professionals’ proof prompted prosecutors to overview the conviction, and with proof mounting in opposition to his involvement, Williams was paroled in December 2019.

Williams was cleared by the DA’s Conviction Integrity Evaluate Unit and is the primary wrongful conviction case to be overturned on Staten Island, prosecutors mentioned Thursday.

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