- Two men have been cleared of all charges and released after spending 42 years in jail for a crime they did not commit
- According to reports, they were arrested and convicted for the murder and attempted murder of two ladies in 1976
- After several failed motions for post-conviction relief, they finally got heard and their conviction cleared
In May 1976, a woman identified as Jeanette Williams was shot dead and her friend, Nina Marshall, barely escaped alive. Their lives and those of their family were deeply affected by this tragedy.
However, two men identified as Clifford Williams Jr. and Hubert Nathan Myers, were also affected as they were wrongfully accused of the crimes despite their pleas of innocence.
Williams was 34 and his nephew, Myers, was 18 when they were arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the crimes which they insisted they didn't commit. They were at a party in Jacksonville, Florida, when the two women were shot in a nearby apartment, one of them fatally.
Now, after 42 years of filing motions and petitions, the two finally got their freedom. On 28 March, the state of Florida threw out their convictions and set them free. It was an emotional moment for Williams and Myers, who shook hands and shared a long hug before joining family members gathered in the courtroom
Myers, who kissed the floor after the charges were dropped, had this to say to a WFOX reporter:
"I'm nervous because I feel like I'm still locked up. Once I get with my family and know I can look back... and the reality hits in, I think I'll be all right."
The woman who survived the shooting told police that Williams and Myers emptied their guns from the foot of the bed she shared with the murdered woman. Evidence, however, showed the shots were all fired outside, and from the same gun.
Still, Williams and Myers were convicted of murder and attempted murder after a two-day trial. Their attorneys presented no evidence or witnesses, although party-goers reported being with the men when everyone heard the shots that night.
Briefly.co.za learnt that after filing several failed motions, things began to change when they petitioned the Conviction Integrity Review unit, which the state attorney created in 2017.
Among the findings was that another man reportedly confessed to people that he committed the murders and felt bad that Williams and Myers were imprisoned for it, the Conviction Integrity Review investigation report said. That man died in 1994.
The new unit's review led to the first-of-its-kind result, with the cases being tossed.
Myers had this to say in a report from the state attorney:
"I lost almost 43 years of my life that I can never get back. But I am looking ahead and will focus on enjoying my freedom with my family."
Williams, who is now 76, and Myers, 61, are looking forward to spending the rest of their lives as free men.
Enjoyed reading our story? Download BRIEFLY's news app on Google Play now and stay up-to-date with major South African news!