The justice system isn’t infallible.
On more than one occasion, it’s been responsible for putting away men and women that didn’t deserve to be behind bars.
The most recent of these instances involves 76-year-old Clifford Williams and his nephew, 61-year-old Nathan Myers, who were recently exonerated on murder convictions.
See their story here.
Williams and Myers were two unsuspecting victims of a 1976 murder when they were convicted of shooting Jeanette Williams (no relation), a tenant living in an apartment owned by Clifford Williams.
After 43 years behind bars, the innocent pair finally walked free thanks to Myers and his contact with the Conviction Integrity Review (CIR) division of the States Attorney’s Office in Florida.
Clifford Williams and Myers were sentenced to life in prison and death for the 1976 murder of Jeanette Williams. After an extensive review by the CIR, the State of Florida no longer has confidence in the integrity of the convictions or guilt of the accused.— State Attorney, 4th (@SAO4Florida) March 28, 2019
The CIR is a relatively new unit formed in 2018 that reviews felony cases in which the convicted party claims innocence.
Myers wrote a letter detailing their case, focusing specifically on the lack of evidence, changing witness testimony and an absence of defense witnesses. Along with his letter, he sent an affidavit from one Nathaniel Lawson, now deceased, who confessed to Jeanette Williams’ murder.
The murder trial hinged primarily on the testimony of Nina Marshall, Jeanette Williams’ lover who was also shot that day by the unknown assailant. She survived and went on to become the damning witness against Williams and Myers.
Marshall fingered the uncle and nephew for the killing, but her story was noted by investigators to have “changed significantly over time.”
From the start of the trial, Williams and Myers were destined to find themselves behind bars. Witnesses that could serve as alibis for their whereabouts during the time of the shooting weren’t called during the trial.
Williams was also characterized as a “well-known heroin dealer and had a significant record,” according to the state’s investigation into the murder. The trial only took two days before the jury deliberated.
At 33-years-old, Williams was sentenced to death and his 18-year-old nephew was sentenced to life in prison.
To help free Clifford Williams and Nathan Myers, the CIR released a 77-page report on their investigation into the case, which included the witness testimonies left out of the original trial.
The dozens of testimonies placed Williams and Myers at a birthday party down the street from the shooting.
According to the report:
“While no single item of evidence, in and of itself, exonerates Defendant Myers or Defendant Williams, the culmination of all the evidence, most of which the jury never heard or saw, leaves no abiding confidence in the convictions or the guilt of the defendants.”
A motion for the charges to be cleared and for the two men to go free was filed by the State Attorney’s Office and the Innocence Project of Florida.
“I lost almost 43 years of my life that I can never get back, but I am looking ahead and will focus on enjoying my freedom with my family,” Myers said in a written statement.
Nathan Myers’ and Clifford Williams’ first few steps of freedom.— Innocence Project of FL (@FLA_Innocence) March 28, 2019
What a moment today was, to see the State Attorney’s Office correcting a decades long mistake. pic.twitter.com/XSSKjwxSGx
For his wrongful imprisonment, Myers will receive compensation from the state of Florida.
According to the official Florida legislature website, exonerated individuals can received $50,000 per year that they were wrongfully imprisoned with a cap of $2,000,000.
Due to his prior felonies before the shooting, Clifford Williams isn’t entitled to any compensation.