$10.5 million in compensation for spending 24 years in jail being innocent: settlement in New York

Crime in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NYC.

Photo: Mariela Lombard / The NY Journal

Shawn Williams was just 19 years old when he was falsely accused of a 1993 murder in Brooklyn. He spent 24 years in prison and now the city of New York will compensate him for the injustice with $ 10.5 million dollars to settle a federal lawsuit civil rights case against a former detective and two other officers.

Williams walked free in 2018, then the 14th overturned conviction linked to the retired detective. Louis Scarcella, who has been accused of coercing witnesses and frame innocent suspects, mostly black and Hispanic, during another time of high crime in NYC, in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Margaret Smith testified that she had seen Williams at the scene of the murder with a gun that led to his conviction, even though there was no forensic evidence linking him to the crime. Years later the woman retracted her testimony and said that Scarcella had forced her to name Williams as the gunman, she summarized. The New York Times.

“No amount of money can bring back the years that were taken from me,” Williams, now 47, said in a statement. “But I will continue rebuilding my life and looking forward to a brighter future.”

“No amount of money can bring back the years that were taken from me…but I will continue to rebuild my life and look forward to a brighter future.”

Shawn Williams

An attorney for Scarcella reported that the retired detective denies any wrongdoing. This is a previously applauded officer who in recent years has faced accusations of misconduct. The city has paid millions of dollars in settlements for other cases related to him over the years, he noted. Pix11.

For greater injustice, Williams was sent to prison in 1994 for the fatal shooting of a neighbor and friend, Marvin Mason, which occurred a year earlier in Crown Heights.

The case against Williams began to unravel in 2013 after defense attorney Victor Hou of Cleary Gottleib and activists from the Legal Aid Society tracked down Smith, the only eyewitness to the murder. Upon his release in July 2018, prosecutors did not mention Scarcella, saying simply that Smith was “very ill” and “uncooperative” and that they would not try the case again.

That same year, several cases were reported of men in New York who spent years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Since then, other injustices have been recognized, not all linked to Scarcella.

Last July, in Staten Island (NYC) a murder conviction was annulled for the first time, after a man spent 23 years unjustly imprisoned.

In September, Keith Bush, a wrongfully convicted man who spent 33 years behind bars accused of stabbing and strangling a teenage girl, reached a $16 million settlement in Suffolk County. He was the longest murder case to be overturned in New York State history and one of the longest in the entire US.

In late 2021, Julio Negrón, a former school guard who spent 10 years in prison because prosecutors in Queens (NYC) allegedly withheld key evidence and tampered with witnesses, settled his lawsuit against the city for $6.25 million.