Anthony Williams, the 34-year-old man who has been in prison since the age of fourteen for murder, had his conviction overturned by a judge who says he didn't get a fair trial. And on Thursday, Williams' family held a prayer vigil in front of the Circuit Court building to pray that Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce will choose not to re-prosecute him.
Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Richard Green threw out Williams' conviction last week on constitutional grounds, saying that prosecutors hid evidence, including several eyewitnesses who said another person was responsible for the shooting. Joyce, who was not yet the Circuit Attorney during the original trial, has until July 3 to make her decision on whether her office will seek to retry Williams.
One of the people standing outside the courthouse was Anthony Robinson, Williams' son. Robinson was born a few months after his father was locked up. Now nineteen years old and a spitting image of his father, Robinson told reporters what he thinks St. Louis' top prosecutor should do.
"I'd tell her that it's time," says the Lincoln University sophomore. "It's better late than never. And it's a perfect time to make a wrong a right."
Williams was convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of Cortez Andrews, who was also fourteen, outside a dance hall on New Year's Eve 1993. A fight involving several teens broke out and somebody shot Andrews. A few weeks later, Williams was arrested for the murder. He was tried as an adult, lost his case, and given the mandatory sentence: life in prison without parole.
Williams lost each of his appeals, and it appeared that he would have to serve out his sentence. But in 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences for juveniles is cruel and unusual punishment and violates the eighth amendment. Williams' case was one of a handful of cases that would be considered for re-sentencing.
Bukowsky took on Williams' case in 2012. The Columbia-based lawyer was asked by the Missouri Public Defender's Office to consider taking on one of the cases affected by Miller v. Alabama. After looking through the options, Bukowsky says she was most compelled by Williams.
She also noticed that the murder, although tragic for the victim and his family, wasn't as violent as other crimes where juveniles have been sentenced to life, such as a kid who was convicted of murdering an elderly couple and another who raped and murdered two teenage girls.
"It was the least heinous crime [out of the options]," Bukowsky says. "I was surprised he wasn't charged with murder second, given his age and because it happened during a fight."
That made the life without parole sentence stand out, especially for a fourteen-year-old.
Click on the next page to read more about Williams' case, as well as the prosecutor's rebuttal to allegations she withheld evidence...