Staten Island man spent 23 years behind bars for murder he didn’t commit

Staten Island

Grant Williams after conviction overturned (SI DA)

STATEN ISLAND — A Staten Island man’s murder conviction was tossed Thursday after he spent 23 years behind bars. 

Grant Williams, 50, was wrongfully imprisoned for the killing of Shdell Lewis. He was paroled in 2019, but before that, his attorney had contacted the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office and asked them to look at Williams’ case.

Thursday marks the first time the DA’s Conviction Integrity Review Unit overturned a conviction.

“While nothing can ever give Mr. Williams back all the years he unjustly lost in prison, today’s vacating of his conviction and dismissal of the case at the very least establishes his innocence and finally clears his name,” DA Michael McMahon said.

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.

“As prosecutors, we have a legal obligation and an ethical duty to ensure that the right person is convicted for the crime charged,” McMahon said. “Justice depends on us not only correcting these past mistakes but working diligently to avoid the same errors from happening again.”

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