IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

After decades in prison, exonerated Philadelphia man was fatally shot at a funeral

Christopher Williams, 62, had spent nearly 30 years in prison before his release 22 months ago.

A wrongly convicted Philadelphia man who spent nearly three decades in prison before he was released last year was gunned down at a funeral, authorities said Wednesday.

No arrests were immediately made after Christopher Williams, 62, "suffered gunshot wounds to the head" at Mount Peace Cemetery at 2:20 p.m. ET Friday, Philadelphia police said in a statement.

 Christopher Williams
Christopher Williams spent nearly three decades in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of multiple murders.Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

He was taken to Temple University Hospital, where he was pronounced at 2:27 p.m., police said.

Williams had been convicted in two separate cases, a triple murder in 1989 and the slaying of Michael Haynesworth, who was also killed that year. 

Williams and co-defendant Troy Coulston were convicted of the Haynesworth murder in 1992. Then, in 1993, Williams and co-defendant Theophalis Wilson were convicted of the triple slaying.

Decades later, Philadelphia prosecutors moved to dismiss the murder convictions against Williams in both cases after having found tainted testimony and exculpatory evidence that police discovered but never shared with defense lawyers, officials said.

Since his release 22 months ago, Williams had been working as a carpenter with hope of starting his own construction business that would employ freed convicts, said Williams’ longtime attorney, Stuart Lev.

"It's incredibly tragic. This guy went through decades in prison, 25 years on death row, for crimes that he did not commit, because the system failed," Lev said Wednesday.

"He kept fighting, and he wouldn't give up. He just kept insisting that he keep trying different ways of fighting. Whether that was to keep his hopes up or that was just his own determination and perseverance, that's what he did. He worked very hard with his lawyers to make sure his lawyers kept doing that, too."

A representative for Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said Williams' slaying was "tragic" and bemoaned that he didn't get more enjoyment from his nearly two years of freedom.

"What Chris endured as a twice-wrongfully convicted exoneree is unfathomable," Jane Roh, Krasner's communications director, said in a statement.

"And that his short-lived freedom was marked by struggle, as Pennsylvania is one of 12 states in the U.S. that does not compensate the wrongfully convicted, is unconscionable."