Global law firm White & Case LLP has helped obtain a record-setting US$10.5 million civil rights settlement from the City of New York for Shawn Williams, whom the Firm represented on a pro bono basis. Mr. Williams was wrongfully convicted of second-degree murder in 1993 in Brooklyn, New York. He maintained his innocence through 24 years in prison and was finally exonerated in 2018.
"I extend my deepest gratitude to the entire White & Case team, who worked tirelessly on my case," said Mr. Williams. "Thanks to their efforts, I have finally received a measure of compensation for the injustice that I suffered."
Mr. Williams's conviction rested solely upon the testimony of a single eyewitness, who claimed to have identified him from a window in her sixth-story apartment, at midnight. Despite the flimsy evidence against him and strong evidence demonstrating that he was in Pennsylvania at the time of the murder, Mr. Williams was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
In 2014, the eyewitness recanted, confessing in a sworn affidavit that notorious detective Louis N. Scarcella coerced her into falsely identifying Mr. Williams. The witness also revealed that she had initially refused to testify against Mr. Williams, but was arrested, transported from her home in Georgia to New York, and forced to testify against her will—a fact previously hidden from Mr. Williams's defense team.
The US$10.5 million settlement is believed to be the largest yet in the long string of cases involving alleged misconduct by Detective Scarcella, whose tactics have resulted in courts overturning more than a dozen convictions since 2013.
"Having represented Mr. Williams since he was in prison for a murder he did not commit, it is with great pride that I see him finally receive the compensation he deserves," said White & Case partner Sam Hershey, who led the case and also helped free Mr. Williams from prison in 2018. "Shawn spent 24 years in prison as an innocent man, and while nothing will ever truly make up for that, he can now finally move forward with his life. We are incredibly grateful for this settlement."
The White & Case team consisted of partners Sam Hershey (New York) and Kevin Bolan (Boston), and associate Wyatt R. Smith (New York). Many more White & Case personnel provided invaluable assistance, including legal assistant Daniela De la Cruz.
Co-counsel consisted of David Shanies and Deborah Francois of Shanies Law Office.
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