Man who wrongly spent 25 years on death row is shot dead after being freed
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A 62-year-old man who spent 25 years of his life on death row was shot dead less than two years after being released from prison.
In February 2021, Christopher Williams walked free from prison holding two warrants for his execution, a grim reminder of the fate he would have suffered.
When released he spoke of his unique circumstances of being charged with six murders, eventually being exonerated in four cases and acquitted twice.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the district attorney's office said the case against Williams had been 'built on a house of cards'.
They said the case of the murders Williams was accused of committing had included false testimony and that there was plenty of undisclosed evidence in the trial, condemning him to years behind bars as he awaited execution.
Williams had been imprisoned from the age of 29 to 61, spending 25 of those years on death row.
Since being freed the 62-year-old had been working as a carpenter and had been seeking compensation from the state of Pennsylvania for the 25 years he spent on death row.
Pennsylvania is one of the few US states which does not offer compensation for people who are wrongfully imprisoned, though there are cases where people have received payouts since walking free.
He had filed a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia seeking compensation for the decades he spent in prison, with the majority of his time being on death row awaiting execution.
He also advocated for the situations of other prisoners he believed had been wrongly convicted and were stuck in prison for crimes he thought they had not committed.
The 62-year-old had also hoped to start his own program to help former prisoners re-enter society once they had walked free.
However, at around 2:20pm on Friday 16 December, he was shot once in the head as he stepped out of a car at Mount Peace Cemetery while taking part in a funeral procession for a formerly imprisoned man.
Williams was taken to Temple University Hospital but was pronounced dead around half an hour after being shot, he died 22 months after being released from prison.
No arrests have yet been made and a motive for his killing is not yet known.
Recently exonerated man Terrance Lewis said the 62-year-old had been a 'champion for justice' who had been 'learning how to give back' when he was killed.
His son Christopher Hartwell said his father 'taught me how to be a better man' and 'helped me be a better father myself'.