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Staten Island Judge Vacates Conviction Of Grant Williams After New Evidence Uncovered In 1996 Murder Of Shdell Lewis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A New York City man who served 23 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit was officially cleared of the charges Thursday.

In the first successful wrongful conviction case on Staten Island, a judge vacated the 1997 conviction of 50-year-old Grant Williams, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported.

"I used to tell everybody in prison I'm innocent," Williams said outside the courthouse. "They say, 'Oh Williams, everybody says that.' I said, 'I'm telling you the truth. One day you're gonna see me on the news and they're gonna say that I was innocent,' and today's that day."

Williams served more than two decades behind bars for the 1996 shooting death of Shdell Lewis outside the Stapleton NYCHA housing complex. He's been on parole since 2019.

At the time of the murder, there was only one eyewitness who identified Williams as the shooter. The officer who chased the gunman gave a physical description that didn't match Williams. The shooter left behind a Wu-Tang-Clan hat that was not DNA tested. No forensic evidence or fingerprints tied Williams to the crime.

"I had blacked out with the verdict. I couldn't believe it," said Cynthia Franklin, Williams' mom.

In 2017, the Staten Island District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit reinvestigated the case. They discovered new evidence, interviewed new, credible witnesses who didn't initially come forward, and checked out Williams' alibi.

Williams was working at the Wu-Tang Clan recording studio that day.

"He left, a part of me left.... So it was never really the same again," said rapper "Ghostface Killah."

Williams, a father of three, also missed out on precious time with his children.

"I don't never want nobody to be in that situation again. So I'm gonna educate as much people as I could," Williams said about his future plans.

Williams earned his associate's degree in prison and started working on a bachelor's.

He's not holding a grudge.

"I knew it was gonna happen. I never have up," Williams said.

The DA's office said it regrettably cannot give those years back to Williams, but it can give him his name back.

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