Judge Throws Out Conviction of Man Imprisoned for 20 Years - Since the Age of 14

Jun 23, 2014 at 10:15 am
click to enlarge Anthony Williams then, Anthony Williams now.
Anthony Williams then, Anthony Williams now.

A man locked up in prison for 20 years - since he was 14 years old - was ordered to be released after a judge found that prosecutors hid evidence that could have acquitted the child, who is now 34. The prosecutors in that case have since led successful careers and currently face no charges.

Anthony Williams was convicted of fatally shooting 14-year-old Cortez Andrews in the head outside a dance hall on Dec. 31, 1993. Williams, who was the same age as the victim, was tried as an adult for the murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Over the past two decades, Williams' multiple appeals were denied. But last week, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green found that the conviction was so flawed that Williams must either be released or get a new trial. Among those findings, according to the Post-Dispatch:

"...prosecutors did not provide Williams' previous lawyers with evidence that could have helped him, including three witness statements that contradicted the accounts of state witnesses who identified Williams as the shooter; police dispatch and 911 emergency tapes; and statements by Andrews' identical twin, Courtney, at the crime scene naming another assailant."

"The government's failure to disclose this evidence undermines this court's confidence in the jury's verdict," Judge Green wrote. "Anthony might not be in prison today had the government abided by its duty to disclose all of this information to the defense more than two decades ago."

See also: Darryl Burton: Wrongfully Convicted Ex-Prisoner Sues St. Louis, Police Board

Jennifer Bukowsky, the attorney handling Williams' current appeal, tells the Associated Press that she initially began working on Williams' case to reduce his sentence after a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that deemed it unconstitutional for minors to receive automatic life sentences. But after looking into the case, she became convinced of Williams' innocence.

"I can't even put into words how much it means to me to correct this manifest injustice," Bukowsky says. "This is a person who would have languished for another 40 years and have likely died in prison." See also: Man Sues Police for Imprisoning Him for the Wrong Crime. Twice.

Since the faulty conviction, the prosecutors in the case - Hope Whitehead and Barbara Peebles - have had successful legal careers. Whitehead, who is now in private practice, became a Democratic state representative in 2010. She replaced state rep. Talibdin El-Amin, who resigned from the House after being convicted of taking a bribe. Whitehead's political career would be cut short when she lost her 2012 re-election bid.

Click on the next page to read about how Peebles had clerks hear her cases while she was on vacation in China...