A Staten Island man who spent 23 years behind bars after being wrongly accused of murder has now won a case against New York.
The Associated Press reports that the city will pay Grant Williams $7 million. The 51-year-old has been on parole since 2019 and his conviction was overturned last July. He was accused of killing Shdell Lewis outside a Staten Island public housing complex in 1996.
After being cleared of the charges, he sued the city, with the comptroller’s office choosing to settle his claim out of court. “It will help him move on and try to get back on his feet,” Williams’ attorney Irving Cohen said, adding that the city “did the right thing.” New York State also settled another claim with Williams for $5 million.
Comptroller Brad Lander said he was pleased that New York City was “able to move quickly to a fair and timely resolution of this claim.”
A few witnesses, including a police officer, identified William as the shooter, although their description of the suspect did not match that of Williams. One piece of evidence prosecutors also relied on was a Wu-Tang baseball cap left at the scene, which was not tested for DNA. In the past, Williams had worked at the rap team’s studio in Staten Island.
Other witnesses said the shooter was not Williams and the prosecution had no physical, forensic or digital evidence that could attribute the shot to him. Williams tried several times to appeal her case, with Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon eventually agreeing to take a look.
“I used to tell everyone in jail that I’m innocent,” Williams said outside the courthouse with Ghostface Killah by her side. “They say, ‘Oh Williams, everybody says that.’ I said, ‘I’m telling you the truth. One day you’re going to see me on the news and they’re going to say I was innocent,’ and today is that day.