Man Wins $10.5M Decades After Being Allegedly Framed

Shawn Williams spent 24 years in prison
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2022 10:33 AM CDT
An Infamous Detective Framed Him. Now, 'Reparation'
Former Detective Louis Scarcella appears outside a court room in New York on May 8, 2017.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A woman said she saw Shawn Williams with a gun at the scene in Brooklyn, NY, where his neighbor was shot to death in July 1993. The 19-year-old denied that he'd pulled the trigger. In fact, he denied that he was even in the state. It didn't matter. Williams spent the next 24 years in prison until his murder conviction was overturned in 2018. The female witness who lived across the street from the scene had by then recanted. She claimed former NYPD homicide detective Louis Scarcella pressured her to name Williams, saying her own son could otherwise become a suspect, according to a federal civil rights complaint, which has just prompted a $10.5 million settlement, per the New York Times.

It's believed to be the largest payout in a series of wrongful conviction cases tied to Scarcella since he was accused in 2013 of framing a suspect in the 1990 murder of a Hasidic rabbi, per the outlet. "No amount of money can give me back the years they took from me," the 47-year-old Williams—who filed the case against Scarcella, his partner Stephen Chmil, and another officer—said in a Wednesday statement. "But I am going to keep rebuilding my life and looking ahead to a brighter future." His legal team said records put Williams in southern Pennsylvania in the days before and after the killing. There was no forensic evidence placing him at the scene. "My childhood friend was murdered, and I was framed," he said upon his release, per the New York Daily News.

But a lawyer for Scarcella, who retired in 1999, says he "categorically denies" allegations of misconduct in the case. "He did nothing wrong," Richard Signorelli adds, per the Times. Williams' lawyer, David Shanies, scoffs at that. "Shawn has been through the fire for nearly 30 years," he says. "It's satisfying to see him come out the other side with his name cleared and some reparation for his ordeal." Others are still waiting for that opportunity. More than 70 cases tied to Scarcella have come under scrutiny. Williams' conviction was, at the time, the 14th to be overturned, per the AP, and New York City has paid tens of millions of dollars to settle complaints. The Times notes "several" cases remain unresolved. (More wrongful conviction stories.)

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