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After spending 24 years in prison for the 1993 murder of Marvin Mason, Shawn Williams has been awarded a $10.5 million settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
“No amount of money can give me back the years they took from me,” Williams said in a statement to the New York Times. “But I am going to keep rebuilding my life and looking ahead to a brighter future.”
Shawn Williams was 19 years old when he was sentenced to 25 years to life for the murder of his neighbor Marvin Mason. Williams always maintained his innocence, and even though no forensic evidence connected him to the murder, he was convicted based off of one woman’s testimony.
Prosecutors relied on the testimony of one woman who said she had seen him at the scene with a gun. The woman recanted her testimony in 2013, saying that she had been coerced into naming Williams as the shooter by disgraced former Brooklyn homicide detective Louis Scarcella.
According to the lawsuit filed against the city, the witness was arrested in Georgia and taken back to New York “against her will” to testify against Williams. The detectives told the witness “they might turn to her son as a suspect if she did not provide them with one.”
Shawn Williams’ overturned convictions, and others linked to Scarcella
Williams was freed in 2018 after the witness recanted her testimony. His release was the 14th overturned conviction connected to former Louis Scarcella who has been accused of coercing witnesses and framing suspects during the 80’s and 90’s.
So far, New York City has had to pay out tens of millions to settle civil suits involving cases like that of Shawn Williams that have been linked to Scarcella. More than a dozen convictions he helped secure have been thrown out, with more still pending.
Scarcella retired from the NYPD in 1999, and claims that he did nothing wrong during his time as detective.
Richard Signorelli, a lawyer who represents Scarcella, said that Mr. Scarcella “categorically denies” all accusations of misconduct in Mr. Williams’s case, and stressed that the settlement did not represent an admission.