Authorities said Wednesday that a wrongfully convicted Philadelphia man who had spent nearly three decades in prison before being released last year was gunned down at a funeral.
Christopher Williams, 62, “suffered gunshot wounds to the head” at Mount Peace Cemetery at 2:20 p.m. ET Friday, according to Philadelphia police.
He was taken to Temple University Hospital and died at 2:27 p.m., according to police.
Williams had been convicted in two separate cases, a triple murder in 1989 and the murder of Michael Haynesworth that same year.
In 1992, Williams and co-defendant Troy Coulston were found guilty of Haynesworth’s murder. Williams and co-defendant Theophalis Wilson were then convicted of the triple homicide in 1993.
Officials said that decades later, Philadelphia prosecutors moved to dismiss Williams’ murder convictions in both cases after discovering tainted testimony and exculpatory evidence that police discovered but never shared with defence lawyers.
Williams had been working as a carpenter since his release 22 months ago, with the hope of starting his own construction business that would employ freed convicts, according to Williams’ longtime attorney, Stuart Lev.
“It’s a terrible tragedy. Because the system failed, this man spent decades in prison, 25 years on death row, for crimes he did not commit “On Wednesday, Lev stated.
“He didn’t give up and kept fighting. He just kept insisting on trying new ways of fighting. That’s what he did, whether it was to keep his hopes alive or just his own determination and perseverance. He worked very hard with his lawyers to ensure that they did the same.”
Williams’ slaying was “tragic,” according to a representative for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who lamented that he didn’t get more enjoyment out of his nearly two years of freedom.
“What Chris went through as a twice-wrongfully convicted exoneree is incomprehensible,” said Jane Roh, Krasner’s communications director, in a statement.
“And the fact that his brief period of freedom was marked by struggle, given that Pennsylvania is one of 12 states in the United States that do not compensate wrongfully convicted people, is unconscionable.”