A former navy veteran convicted in 1994 by an Illinois court for murdering his ex-wife has been released from prison for a wrongful conviction.
Williams was in prison for almost 30 years before he was exonerated on Tuesday with the help of the Illinois Innocence Project.
The Illinois Innocence Project disclosed that the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office knew that Williams’ wrongdoing “was based on scientifically unsupported forensic pathology testimony regarding the victim’s time of death, that the prosecution hid favorable evidence at his original trial, and that the detective who claimed Mr. Williams confessed is now known to have engaged in a pattern of misconduct, including securing false confessions and claiming suspects made admissions of guilt in other innocence cases.”
The case was overturned due to new DNA evidence, faulty forensics, and misconduct within the case.
“Anybody who knows me knows I couldn’t have done this,” Williams explained. “I wouldn’t have done this.”
“It’s still sinking in,” Williams expressed, “but I feel vindicated – that’s the word.”
“Driving away from the prison, that was just overwhelming,” he said. “Word can’t describe the feelings that run through me.”
“Don’t give up,” Williams announced. “Never stop fighting for right.”
His ex-wife, Penny Williams, was found dead in a pond days after her disappearance. She had severe blunt force trauma and defensive damage to her body.
Once the body was recovered, the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force focused on Herman Williams as he was the only possible suspect. They rejected other leads to the case, which the Innocence Project reported.
Williams was remarried then but was separated from his current wife. The prosecutors in the case said Williams murdered so he could move to California, where he would be restationed for the navy with his current wife and children.
He was sentenced to life in prison three months later by Lake County Judge Charles Scott.
State’s Attorney’s office approved DNA testing in 2021 under Ms. Williams’s fingernails that did not match Mr. Williams’s DNA. Blood found in Mr. Williams’s car did not match Ms. Williams’s DNA either.
Lake county State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit Chief Kevin Malia found that two forensic pathologists agreed that Mr. Williams’s jury listened to evidence that was “scientifically unsupported” of the details about Ms. Williams’s disappearance and murder.
The State’s Attorney’s Office confessed that the detective assigned to Herman’s case had been reported of misconduct in the past.
The defense attorney who took Mr. Williams’s case did not do his job professionally, being lazy on follow-up evidence that would have never let Herman be convicted.
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