NEW YORK (AP) — New York City has agreed to pay $7 million to a man who spent 23 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit.
Comptroller Brad Lander announced the settlement Monday with Grant Williams. He was exonerated last July in the 1996 shooting of Shdell Lewis outside a Staten Island public housing complex.
Williams had been paroled in 2019. He had unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for years before Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon’s office agreed to review it and eventually joined him in asking a court to dismiss his conviction.
In reviewing the case, investigators interviewed six new witnesses who told them Williams was not the shooter. Another witness said he was with Williams all night the day of the shooting at the WuTang Clan Recording Studio.
On that April 1996 night, Lewis had just left a building in the Stapleton NYCHA complex when a man opened fire, striking Lewis in the back and torso. Officers chased the shooter. They didn’t catch him, but they recovered a WuTang hat that fell off his head.
Williams later asked for the hat to be tested for DNA, but it had been destroyed during NYPD Property Clerk’s normal procedures.
At the time of Lewis’ death, officers described the shooter as having a stocky building and being around 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Williams was very thin and 6 feet, 2 inches tall.
Investigators found several areas where police did not follow best practices as they reviewed the case.