Grant Williams, a Staten Island native who spent 23 years incarcerated after being wrongly convicted of murder, has won a lawsuit against New York City.
The 51-year-old was accused of killing Shdell Lewis outside a public housing complex in his hometown in 1996. He was paroled in 2019 and exonerated in July 2021. After being cleared of all charges, he sued the city and the Associated Press reported that the comptroller’s office has opted to settle his claim, rewarding Williams with $7 million.
“This will assist him in going forward and trying to get back on his feet,” Williams’ attorney, Irving Cohen said, adding that the city “did the right thing.” New York state recently settled a separate claim with Williams for $5 million.
Comptroller Brad Lander “was pleased” about New York City being “able to move quickly to a fair and early resolution of this claim.”
When Williams was convicted, he worked at Wu-Tang Clan’s studio and prosecutors attempted to make a connection between Williams and a baseball cap that the shooter dropped at the scene. The hat, that was emblazoned with the Wu-Tang Clan logo, was never tested for DNA. Prosecutors also relied heavily on alleged eyewitness account. A police office, who reportedly chased the gunman, offered a description that didn’t match Williams.
Furthermore, there was no physical, forensic, or digital evidence concretely tying Williams to the crime.
“I used to tell everybody in prison I’m innocent,” Williams stated after he left the courthouse upon his conviction being overturned, alongside his best friend, Ghostface Killah. “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.”
While incarcerated, Williams received his associate’s degree and hopes to help children and other wrongfully convicted people.