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Exonerated Black Man Files Lawsuit Against Philadelphia, Former DA After Sitting On Death Row

The current DA discovered prosecutorial misconduct in the case.

Christopher Williams, who was exonerated after languishing 30 years in prison and 25 years on death row for murders he didn’t commit, filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday (Dec. 1) against the city of Philadelphia.

The suit alleges 82 counts that include malicious prosecution, failure to intervene, supervisory liability and discrimination, local public radio station WHYY reports.

In addition to Philadelphia, the lawsuit names more than a dozen other defendants that include the city’s former district attorney Lynne Abraham, police department and 17 police detectives.

Williams’ complaint said he was victimized by a system that used “policies, patterns, and practices that intentionally discriminated against Black men.”

“I would just hope that it exposes the corruption in the system,” Williams said at a press conference on Wednesday. “I hope my situation brings to light that I’m not the only one.”

Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents Williams, said the lawsuit seeks $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

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Williams was charged with six homicides in 1989, according to local Philadelphia station WPVI.  He was acquitted of two but convicted of the other four homicides. He was sentenced to death row and was twice within days of execution.

At the press conference, his sister, Maxine Mathis, said, "I can't tell you what it felt like each time they signed that death warrant for my brother."

Williams was released in February after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit discovered prosecutorial misconduct in the case. The wrongdoing included hiding evidence that showed his innocence and undisclosed deals for informants to give false testimony.

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