A former Wu-Tang studio worker will receive a $7 million dollar settlement from the city of Staten Island after serving 23 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
Grant Williams, 51, was convicted of the 1996 murder of 20-year-old Shdell Lewis despite police having no confession, forensic or video evidence linking him to the crime. An initial description by the officer who chased the suspect also didn’t match that of Williams and several witnesses told officers that Williams was not the killer.
Police ignored the witness statements that testified to Williams’ innocence and prosecutors implied a connection between Williams and a Wu-Tang baseball cap that was found at the scene.
A jury convicted Williams of murder in 1997. Just 28 at the time, he was sentenced to spend 25 years to life behind bars.
Though he maintained his innocence and appealed his case repeatedly while imprisoned, it wasn’t until 2017 that Williams’ case gained traction. A probe by the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Review Unit (CIRU) unveiled new evidence indicating his innocence.
He was paroled in 2019 and officially exonerated of the crime when his conviction was vacated in July 2021, according to Staten Island Live. It was a historic moment as it was the first time a wrongful conviction was overturned in Staten Island.
“A reinvestigation of this case by my office’s Conviction Integrity Review Unit uncovered new evidence showing Mr. Grant Williams could not have committed the murder a Staten Island jury convicted him of carrying out in 1997,” McMahon said at the time.
Williams, his family, and friends – including Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah – were overcome with emotion at his release. “I’m a happy man,” Williams said while leaving the courthouse. “I’m happy to be free. … There’s a lot of joy in my heart right now.”
Ghostface Killah said he felt “like a ton of bricks being lifted” when Williams was released. “I missed him,” Ghostface said. “When he left, part of me left.”
The former Wu-Tang studio worker then sued the city for police misconduct and violating his civil rights. On Monday, May 23, Staten Island settled with Williams for $7 million.
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“Grant Williams spent 23 years in jail for a crime that he did not commit,” Comptroller Brad Lander said in a statement. “While no amount of money can bring those years back for Mr. Williams or his family, I am pleased that we were able to move quickly to a fair and early resolution of this claim.”
The city also settled a separate claim with Williams for $5 million.
Williams’ attorney, Irving Cohen, said the settlement money would help Williams in “going forward and trying to get back on his feet,” adding the city “did the right thing” by settling quickly.
Online users on Twitter and Reddit weighed in on the settlement, with many noting how no amount of money could replace the years Williams lost.
“F**k man. $7M is no where near the amount of money they owe him, if you could even pay him back for his lost time,” Reddit user @DSGX commented in a thread.
“7 million is peanuts, for anybody, who spent 23 years, for alleged crime, he or she did not commit,” Darrell Hopkins tweeted.
“I wouldn’t sacrifice 23 years of my life for $7B. That’s a lot of years spent away from family and friends on top of feeling deeply saddened. Fuck that. This sh*t is saddening,” added Reddit user @31337hacker.
“Plus I’m sure A LOT of that 7mil will go to therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists for PTSD/anxiety. Prison isn’t exactly a fun place to hang out for 20+ years,” Reddit user LeahCahn wrote.
“Wonder if that is even enough. 23 yrs?! It is not just the years which are just too many but the psychological turmoil while you are doing them too,” @Manchuriatrump tweeted. “The damage that may do, 7 million is not enough to wipe that.”
PHOTO: Grant Williams, left center, is embraced by his attorney Irving Cohen after his murder conviction is vacated, July 22, 2021, in New York. (Jan Somma-Hammel/Staten Island Advance via AP, Pool, File)