Google+ Georgia On My Mind: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Now believe me I am very conservative when it comes convicting and sentencing criminals, however, I wonder how many innocent Georgians are sitting in prison simply because DNA testing was not available when they were convicted.

Imagine twenty-two years taken from you. They were taken from Pete Williams.

This is directly from the Georgia Innocence Project:

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced today that Willie O. "Pete" Williams, 44, will be released from state custody as soon as tomorrow. DNA test results ruled out Williams as the perpetrator of a rape for which he was convicted in 1985. Williams has spent nearly 22 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Howard said Williams would be released on his own recognizance pending the scheduling of a hearing that will officially exonerate him of the crime. That hearing is expected to occur in the next two weeks.

Through the efforts of The Georgia Innocence Project (GIP), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation performed the DNA testing that proves Mr. Williams's innocence. "We couldn't be more thrilled," said GIP Executive Director Aimee Maxwell. "It is the best result we could expect, and it is way past time for Pete Williams to go home to his family."

Mr. Williams was convicted of rape, kidnapping and aggravated sodomy for an attack that occurred in the parking lot of a Sandy Springs apartment complex in April, 1985. The court sentenced Mr. Williams to 45 years in prison. This rape was one of a pattern of very similar attacks over the course of several months in Sandy Springs and Buckhead. Mr. Williams was arrested after the second attack. Three other attacks in the pattern occurred while Mr. Williams was incarcerated in the Fulton County jail.

Williams wrote GIP in July 2005, responding to a letter Maxwell had sent approximately a year before to all Georgia inmates convicted of rape. GIP examines cases where DNA evidence is available to test and where there is a compelling claim of actual innocence.

GIP relies on volunteer attorneys and law students to examine and litigate cases. Georgia State University law student Ashley Tyson first identified Mr. Williams' case as a strong one in early 2006, and GSU law student Cliff Williams took charge of the investigation in June 2006, finding the physical evidence in Mr. Williams' case just two days after he was assigned to the case.

Atlanta attorneys Sandra Michaels and Bruce Harvey provided their litigation services at no cost, and attorney David Balser of the Atlanta law firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge has pledged his firm's support to assist Mr. Williams in rebuilding his life. "We call on all of Atlanta to assist GIP and McKenna Long in welcoming Pete Williams back to society and making the next decades of his life happy and productive ones."

Pete Williams has maintained his innocence for the past 21 years and eight months.

You can make a donation to the Georgia Innocence Project here.

The good……an innocent man will now go free.

The bad…..there are more innocent men and women in prison and the wheels are moving very slowly.

The ugly…a serial rapist may still be out there.


ET said...

The same happened in Cobb County within a year when DNA proved a man convicted by then-D.A. Chuck Clay. I think that guy had been locked up about 10 years before he was proven innocent. Strangely, he seemed not to hold any bad feelings for Clay.
Speaking of Williams, there is another Williams, who claims to be innocent, locked up and the key thrown away - Wayne Williams.
I worked with Wayne's ex-Sunday school teacher and he believed he was innocent.

Button Gwinnett said...

I hope I'm not hijacking this thread by bringing up the death penalty. But my proximity to the Alday family who had several members brutally murdered only a few miles from where I grew up in the 70's shaped my early opinion of the death penalty. Especially in the case of Carl Isaacs who continued to antagonize the survivors for years with his snide comments about those that he murdered.

But it's cases like Mr. Williams' that causes me to re-think all of that. There are innocent men and women in jail today waiting to be absolved somehow, someway. I can't help but feel like there likely are people on death row in the same boat.

ET said...

Wasn't one of the murderers of the Alday family surname Potts?

Button Gwinnett said...

There was Isaacs (executed), Coleman (served time and released), and Dungee (served time and released). Then there is Isaacs' younger brother Billy who turned state's evidence against the others - he was only 15 at the time.

Believe it or not, there was a Billy Isaacs siting in north Florida, just a couple of hours from Donalsonville, GA just a few years ago. He was an invited speaker as a minister of the gospel. Being Marylanders, I would never have guessed that any of these men would ever return so close to the scene of their crime.

Button Gwinnett said...

I got it wrong.......all 3 men were sentenced to death and sat on death row for 12 years. Then a mistrial was declared in all 3 cases. Isaacs' death sentence was upheld. But the other 2 had their sentences reduced to life in prison.

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