In this report, Executive Director Seth Miller describes the day that Derrick Williams was exonerated – April 4th – and the events leading up to this “joyous, powerful and once-in-a-lifetime” occasion. Seth also provides an update on the progress of the Witness Identification Reform Act in the Florida Legislature.
Derrick Williams was exonerated on April 4, 2011 after an emotional roller coaster ride and 18 years of wrongful incarceration. Two weeks after Derrick’s two-day evidentiary hearing, we received the court order vacating his convictions. Read the order here. At this point, the State Attorney’s Office had three choices: they could drop the charges allowing Derrick to go free, or they could retry Derrick, or appeal the ruling. Surprisingly they filed a notice to appeal the ruling, which would have kept Derrick in prison for an additional six to 12 months while the appeal was being decided. Read our blog post about this unprecedented decision here.
However, on Monday, April 4th, we received a phone call from the prosecutor indicating they had changed their minds and were withdrawing the appeal and dropping the all charges. Exuberantly, IPF staff drove 300+ miles to Hardee Correctional Institute and walked Derrick out of prison into the arms of his family. Derrick became the 13th Florida DNA exoneree and the 268th person in the nation to be exonerated by postconviction DNA testing.
In the video, Seth also discusses the progress of the Witness Identification Reform Act (SB 1206 and HB 821) in the Florida Legislature. HB 821 has been dramatically, and sadly, watered down. Stay tuned for continued action alerts about this important legislation.