Innocent Black Man Files Lawsuit After Spending 25 Years On Death Row

By Cherranda Smith

December 3, 2021

Key in Jail Cell Door
Photo: Corbis Documentary RF

A Black man who was exonerated earlier this year is suing the city of Philadelphia after spending 25 years on death row.

Christopher Williams filed the lawsuit Wednesday (December 1) which says he is "seeking justice for over 30 years he spent as an innocent man on death row.

Williams was charged and tried for six murders that occurred in Philly during the late 1980s. He was acquitted of two of the murders, but still convicted on the remaining four.

Williams maintained his innocence in the murders and said in the lawsuit former assistant district attorney David E. Desiderio and multiple Philadelphia detectives of "covered-up evidence, buried leads, and fabricated evidence to arrest and convict Mr. Williams and others."

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing Williams in the lawsuit and spoke to reporters Wednesday outside of the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

"We have to be honest enough to say that we have to improve our system, America. We must be better than what happened to Chris Williams," Crump said.

"You can only imagine the psychological trauma that he endured, knowing that he was an innocent man, but yet the government was within days of killing him for a crime he did not commit. If there's anybody who deserves justice it is Chris Williams. What is the price for stealing his life?"

According to ABC News, Williams is the 167th person in the US to be exonerated from death row since 1973. He's only the 7th in the state of Pennsylvania.

"I spent 25 years on death row and I was convicted of three homicides. I had three death penalties and one life sentence. There were times where ... I didn't know if I was coming home, but I never gave up," Williams said.

"I am aware that not only has this happened to me, but has happened to other individuals, Black and brown, male and female, and who may not have a voice," Williams continued. "There were times where I've often asked myself, 'Why me?' But now I asked myself 'Why not?' Because individuals may not have had the ability to articulate what they are going through."

Williams is a father of six, grandfather of 26 and great-grandfather to five. Since his release from prison, he said he's been working to advocate for others who were wrongfully convicted.

Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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