A man from Philadelphia in Pennsylvania—who spent nearly three decades in prison on wrongful conviction, 25 years of which on death row, and who was released only last February 2021—was shot dead.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Christopher Williams, 62, had been driving in a funeral procession when he was shot in the head upon stepping out of his car at around 2:20 p.m. last Dec. 16.
Williams was rushed to the local hospital and was declared dead at 2:27 p.m.
No suspects were arrested following the shooting.
Williams had been convicted in six murders in his lifetime, including a triple murder and the slaying of a man in 1989.
Williams, a father of six, always maintained his innocence.
Decades later, prosecutors dismissed the murder convictions in the 1989 cases after finding out that they're based on false jailhouse informant testimony, extensive undisclosed evidence, and forensic evidence that directly contradicted the informant’s story, the Inquirer reported.
“Never in the history of the Pennsylvania judicial system has someone been charged with six murders, acquitted of two and now exonerated of four,” Williams told the media during his release in February 2021.
Since his release, Williams had been working as a carpenter, reconnecting with his family while also hoping to start a construction business that would employ freed convicts, his lawyer said.
“He was still learning how to give back. His life just began, and it was taken from him," said Terrance Lewis, a recently freed convict.
Williams's killing alarmed other wrongfully convicted men, who have always feared for their safety after decades in prison—as they're fighting for potentially large civil settlements.
Though Pennsylvania is among a minority of states that don't offer such compensation, the Inquirer reported, it had given close to $10 million (P551 million) to the likes of Williams who served 25 years or more in prison.
“Although we’re actually innocent, not everyone believes it,” said Theophalis Wilson, Williams's co-defendant in the triple murder, who was imprisoned for 28 years.
“I spent 28 years in jail for knowing him. I have to be on guard.”