ORLANDO, Florida. – An uncle and a cousin, who had been imprisoned for 42 years for a Florida murder were vindicated Thursday when prosecutors asked a judge to vacate their convictions, saying they no longer believed in the men’s fault.
Clifford Williams, 76, and Hubert Myers, 61, wiped away tears after the judge said that she was vacating their convictions. They are the first men cleared because the state attorney’s office in Jacksonville started with an initiative last year review of claims of wrongful conviction, the first attempt of its kind in Florida.
“Today, after review and reinvestigation of the case, the evidence and test the State of Florida, no longer has confidence in the integrity of the beliefs or fault of the defendant,” the state attorney’s office wrote in a report describing the reasons for vacating the convictions.
The men were sentenced to life in prison for the 1976 fatal shooting of Jeanette Williams and the attempted murder of her friend Nina Marshall. The women, who knew the suspects socially, were asleep in bed at the time of the shooting.
Williams was killed, but he was able to flag down a car who drove her to a hospital. She has Williams and Myers as the shooters.
The men claimed that they were at a birthday party a block from the shooting and other party-goers to back up their alibis.
Their first trial ended in a mistrial; the men were convicted at a second trial during which prosecutors argued a drug debt was the motive. Defense attorneys, no witnesses and no evidence, but instead attacked Marshall’s credibility as a witness.
There is no physical evidence linked the shooting to the men and the case relied solely on the testimony of Marshall, who said that the men had their shots fired from the foot of her bed.
“In fact, the physical and scientific evidence is actually in contradiction with her testimony about what happened,” the state attorney’s office report said.
Broken glass with bullet holes in a curtain and an aluminum screen showed the photos came from outside a bedroom, the report said. Forensic evidence showed but a single gun was fired.
Marshall died in 2001, and researchers a new treatment of the case were not in a position to question her.
The report said another man, who died in 1994, has claimed responsibility for the murder and Myers answered questions for truth during a polygraph test as part of the review of the innocence.
“The highlight of all the evidence, most of the jury never heard or saw, leave no abiding confidence in the conviction, or the negligence of the defendants,” the report said.