Derrick Williams with his fiancée and grandson (Ryan Palham/Highlands Today)

Derrick Williams was released from prison this week after serving 18 years for a rape he has always maintained he didn't commit. The 47-year-old Florida man’s conviction was overturned as a result of evidence revealed through the efforts of lawyers with Florida's Innocence Project that proved the DNA on a shirt worn by the man who raped a Palmetto woman did not come from Williams.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the rapist, it now seems, was probably another black man who looked enough like Williams that the victim picked Williams' photo out of a book and identified him as her attacker. Even though Williams lacked the scar she said she saw on the rapist's stomach, she stood by her identification, and a jury convicted him.

Advertisement

Williams spent his first day as a free man working to gather the documents he’ll need to restart his life: a copy of his birth certificate, a Florida ID and a Social Security card.

He wants to go to work immediately driving a tractor trailer, and told the Herald, "I would like to be working yesterday." We would have liked to see him free 18 years ago. While his release is a cause for celebration, it's also a heartbreaking reminder of the many innocent people who are spending their lives behind bars, in no small part because of prosecutors who prioritize winning over justice.

Read more at the Bradenton Herald and the Bradenton Herald-Tribune.

In other news: What Does Clarence Thomas Have Against Black People?

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.