Wrongfully Convicted Man Who Spent 29 Years in Prison Shot to Death in Philadelphia

No arrests have been made and a weapon has not been recovered. 

A photo of Christopher Williams, an exoneree who spent three decades in prison for a wrongful conviction, was shot and killed in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

What to Know

  • Christopher Williams, 62, was found shot to death along the 3000 block of West Lehigh Avenue on Friday around 2:20 p.m. No arrests have been made in his murder.
  • Williams had spent nearly 30 years in prison after being convicted for the murders of four men.
  • Williams was exonerated after one of the men who linked Williams to the murders recanted his statements while investigators uncovered evidence that contradicted the initial testimony.

A man who spent nearly 30 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of multiple murders was shot and killed in Philadelphia almost two years after being released, family members confirmed.

On Friday around 2:20 p.m., Philadelphia police responded to the 3000 block of West Lehigh Avenue for a report of a person with a gun. When they arrived they found 62-year-old Christopher Williams suffering from gunshot wounds to the head. 

Wiliams was taken to Temple University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:27 p.m. that day. 

No arrests have been made and a weapon has not been recovered. 

In 1989, Williams, along with Theophalis Wilson, were convicted of murdering three men who were found shot to death in Philadelphia on the same day. 

Wilson was sentenced to life and prison without the possibility of parole while Williams was sentenced to death for the murders. Before that conviction, Williams was separately convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of a man named Michael Haynesworth.

Testimony from two men, one of whom was testifying in exchange for more lenient sentencing in his own six murder cases, had linked Williams and Wilson to the murders. 

In 2011 however, one of the men recanted his testimony against Williams and Wilson in relation to the triple murder in 1989. An expert also concluded that based on available blood evidence and the condition of the bodies, the three men had been killed where they were found rather than thrown from a moving van as the two men who testified against Williams and Wilson had claimed. 

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) also discovered there was a significant amount of evidence in Williams’ favor that had been withheld from the initial trial, including reports of alternate suspects and accounts that contradicted those of the men who testified against him. They also uncovered evidence showing the two men who testified against Williams had been induced to testify by the Commonwealth. 

Based on the new evidence, Williams was exonerated of his triple homicide conviction in December 2019 while Wilson was exonerated in January 2020. 

Despite this however, Williams remained in prison on the Haynesworth conviction. The CIU then revisited that case and found that the testimony against Williams was inconsistent with the available physical evidence. 

Following a recommendation from the CIU, Williams was exonerated a second time on February 9, 2021, and finally free from prison after 29 years. 

In December, 2021, Williams filed a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, 17 police detectives or their estates, two former assistant district attorneys and former district attorney Lynne Abraham for his wrongful convictions.

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

There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.

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