There’s always a good and bad side to exonerations. The good thing is that innocent men like Leonard Mack and Jesse Johnson get to enjoy the life that was taken away from them after they were exonerated from prison.
The bad thing is that because these Black men spent so much time behind bars, they don’t always live much longer after they are freed.
Just look at Clifford Williams Jr., a Black man who was convicted of murder in 1976 in Jacksonville, Fla. along with his nephew Hubert Nathan Myers. They were both charged with murdering Jeanette Williams and severely injuring her girlfriend, Nina Marshall, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
Despite evidence that proved the pair’s innocence and statements from dozens of people who could account for their whereabouts during the murder, Williams was sentenced to die for a crime he did not commit. Initially given the death penalty, his sentence was later changed to life in prison.
In 2017, after Myers read about the formation of the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) in the Florida State’s Attorney’s Office, he wrote a letter to State Attorney Melissa Nelson making an argument on why he and his uncle were both innocent.
In another letter, he told Nelson about the discovery of a man named Nathanial Lawson, who confessed to the crime before he passed away in 1994. As a result, the CIU reinvestigated Williams’ murder.
They spoke to multiple people who said that Lawson did confess to the murder of Jeanette Williams. Allegedly, Lawson fatally shot the woman in 1976 because “she was stealing from me and I had to send a message.”
After further investigations from the CIU found that Lawson was the man who should’ve been convicted of murder, Williams and Myers were both exonerated in 2019 and able to assert their rightful place with friends and family.
After being free from prison for less than five years, Williams died last week at the age of 80.
According to WJXT, Williams’ daughter Tracy Magwood stated during his funeral, “He didn’t get to walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t there when his grandchildren were born. “
Williams oldest son Warren Rozier said, “He took me to wrestling matches, all of the concerts in the Colosseum. We were like best friends, and father and son. I am still going to miss him.”