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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Californian Freed|After 19 Years in Prison

SACRAMENTO (CN) - After 19 years in prison and three first-degree murder trials, a 37-year-old wrongly convicted man was finally released Tuesday from a Sacramento County jail.

After five days of deliberation, a 12-member jury found Richard Williams not guilty of a fatal 1996 drive-by shooting in Sacramento.

Williams gave a 30-minute closing argument on his own behalf, against the judge's recommendation, and won his release after nearly two decades of incarceration.

After a deadlocked jury trial in 1998, Williams was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence without parole in a second trial. The second jury also convicted him of attempted murder of the two other passengers in the car and made him eligible for the death penalty.

Williams, who is black, maintained he was not in the car responsible for the shooting and refused prosecutors' plea deal of 25 years to life.

His attorney Victor Haltom worked on Williams' case for 12 years, and the conviction was thrown out in 2014 by a federal judge. Late U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that prosecutors wrongfully removed a black woman from the jury. The the state's appeal was denied in June by the Ninth Circuit.

The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office then tried in September for the third and final time. Williams, who was 18 when first sent to prison, was acquitted Monday by a jury consisting of at least five minority members.

Williams and his attorney were not available for comment Thursday.

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