In 1994, Herman Williams was convicted by an Illinois court for the murder of his ex-wife after she was found at the bottom of a pond a few days after going missing. She, Penny Williams, died from blunt force trauma to the head and suffered defensive injuries. The couple had two kids at the time, aged three and six.
Mr. Williams, a Petty Officer in the Navy at the time, was locked up after she went missing and treated as the only possible suspect in the case despite there being other leads, leads that were subsequently ignored by the police.
And so Mr. Williams, who has long maintained his innocence, was held in jail, convicted in a court, and tossed in a jail cell for three decades.
Until now, that is. After rotting in prison for decades, Mr. Williams has finally been released. Why? Because he didn’t do it and the tactics used to lock him up weren’t legitimate. In fact, the overzealous prosecutors even hid evidence favorable to him and secured false confessions against him!
Such is what the Illinois Innocence Project, which secured his release, reported. In its words, his conviction:
“was based on scientifically unsupported forensic pathology testimony regarding the victim’s time of death, that the prosecution hid favorable evidence at his original trial, and that the detective who claimed Mr. Williams confessed is now known to have engaged in a pattern of misconduct, including securing false confessions and claiming suspects made admissions of guilt in other innocence cases.”
The Blaze, adding more details about that prosecutorial misconduct and the new evidence used to secure Mr. Williams’ release from prison, reported that:
Advanced DNA testing was not available at the time of Williams’ conviction. In 2021, new DNA testing revealed evidence that showed Williams did not commit the murder.
The Innocence Project also found other errors in the state’s prosecution of the case. For example, at trial, the state presented testimony from an expert who had compared soil from the crime scene area to soil from Williams’ truck wheel and told the jury that the soils matched. “A 2021 review of the soil comparison in this case found it to have been rife with errors and unreliability,” according to the organization.
The Lake County state’s attorney’s office acknowledged the detective on Williams’ case is now known for a pattern of misconduct and has a record of false confessions in other innocence cases, according to the Innocence Project.
Williams, speaking to CBS after finally being released from prison and tearfully reunited with his family, said “It’s still sinking in, but I feel vindicated – that’s the word.”
Adding to that, Williams also said “Driving away from the prison, that was just overwhelming. Words can’t describe the feelings that run through me.”
And, speaking to those other people who find themselves unjustly accused of a crime they didn’t commit, Williams said “Don’t give up. Never stop fighting for right.”