Philadelphia man who spent 25 years on death row before acquittal is shot dead at a funeral two years after release

A former death row inmate has been shot dead less than two years after his release.

Christopher Williams, 62, was fatally shot in the head around 2.20pm on 16 December at Mount Peace Cemetery in North Philadelphia, NBC reported.

Williams had been attending a funeral at the time of the attack. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was later declared dead.

No suspects have been arrested.

Williams was exonerated and acquitted of several murder charges and released in 2020 after spending 29 years in prison – 25 of those years on death row.

The 1989 separate murder cases were tossed out decades later after an integrity unit found that Williams’ conviction was largely based on lying informants and misconduct by the prosecution.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) also found that evidence favouring Williams was withheld during the 1993 trial.

Inmates testifying against Williams had also been promised more lenient sentences in exchange for their testimony.

In 2021, Williams filed an ongoing civil lawsuit against the city, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, trial prosecutor David Desiderio, and more than a dozen police detectives.

After his release, Williams made an effort to rebuild his life and was on his way to starting his own construction business, where he had envisioned hiring former convicts.

“It’s incredibly tragic. This guy went through decades in prison, 25 years on death row for crimes that he did not commit, because the system failed,” Stuart Lev, Williams’ attorney, told NBC.

“He kept fighting and he wouldn’t give up. He just kept insisting that he keep trying different ways of fighting … Whether that was to keep his hopes up or that was just his own determination and perseverance, that’s what he did. He worked very hard with his lawyers to make sure his lawyers kept doing that, too.”

Williams is survived by his wife, five children and several grandchildren, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Williams was shot in the head while getting out of a car at Mount Peace Cemetery in North Philadelphia.

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