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.
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.
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