Man Wrongfully Convicted Of 4 Murders Shot Dead At Funeral 22 Months After His Exoneration

Christopher Williams spent three decades in prison and 25 years on death row after “the system failed,” his lawyer says.

January 11, 2023
Christopher Williams, pictured here smiling, who was exonerated after serving almost three decades behind bars in connection with four murders, was recently killed while attending a funeral.

Christopher Williams, 62, was exonerated after serving almost three decades behind bars in connection with four murders was recently killed while attending a funeral.

Photo by: Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A Pennsylvania man who was exonerated after serving almost three decades behind bars in connection with four murders was recently killed while attending a funeral.

Christopher Williams, 62, had just stepped out of a vehicle at Mount Peace Cemetery in Philadelphia on the afternoon of Dec. 16, 2022 when an unknown assailant fatally shot him once in the head, police said.

Williams’ longtime attorney, Stuart Lev, called the slaying “incredibly tragic,” NBC News reported.

“This guy went through decades in prison, 25 years on death row, for crimes that he did not commit, because the system failed,” Lev said of his former client, who was freed from prison in February 2021, just 22 months before his death.

Police have not announced any arrests in the ongoing investigation.

In 1992, Williams was convicted of the 1989 murder of Michael Haynesworth. The following year, 1993, Williams and his family friend and co-defendant, Theophalis Wilson (who also was later exonerated), were found guilty of a 1989 triple homicide.

While in prison, Lev noted Williams “kept fighting” the accusations against him “and he wouldn’t give up.”

“Whether that was to keep his hopes up or that was just his own determination and perseverance, that's what he did,” the attorney explained. “He worked very hard with his lawyers to make sure his lawyers kept doing that, too.”

Nearly two years ago, Williams’ convictions for the four murders were dismissed and he was exonerated.

In the triple murder, prosecutors determined the case was “built on a house of cards,” and included everything from tainted testimony and exculpatory evidence police never turned over to defense lawyers to contradictory forensic evidence that went against a jailhouse informant’s testimony, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“The basic structure underpinning the conviction was built on the unscrupulous behavior of several bad actors,” the D.A.’s office said.

At the time of his killing, Williams, a father of six and carpenter, was hoping to launch a construction business that would employ other recently released convicts reentering society.

“He touched everybody he talked to,” said Williams’ youngest son, Christopher Hartwell, according to The Inquirer. “Speaking on the year and eight months I had him out here, he taught me how to be a better man. He helped me be a better father myself.”

“What [Williams] endured as a twice-wrongfully convicted exoneree is unfathomable,” Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office said in a statement after the shooting.

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