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‘Right this wrong;’ Jacksonville man suing city, sheriff’s office after wrongful conviction – Action News Jax

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After spending nearly 45 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, Willie Williams is suing the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jacksonville, among others.

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The 79-year-old, along with his attorneys, announced the lawsuit on Wednesday outside the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Jacksonville.

Williams was arrested at the age of 31. He was convicted of attempted murder and armed robbery in 1976. He was released on early parole at age 75 in 2020, and he was finally exonerated earlier this year.

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“It means a whole lot to have my family behind me,” Williams said, standing with his wife, sister, and other family members behind him. He acknowledged that he lost his mother and other members of his family, including his brother, while in prison. He added that he wasn’t able to attend their funerals.

RELATED: Witnesses hypnotized in 1975, leads to 44 years wrongfully served, attorney says

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning, alleges that Jacksonville officers set up Williams by using “junk science” to alter evidence.

“As we allege in the complaint, members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office worked together to frame Willie for crimes he did not commit,” Lauren Carbajal said. “We allege that these officers hypnotized one of the key witnesses in Willie’s case into identifying Willie as the perpetrator of the crime.”

The complaint goes on to say deputies hypnotized one of the victims who had suffered severe head injuries in the attack, resulting in the victim identifying Williams as his attacker. The hypnosis practice wasn’t discovered until 2021 when the Florida State Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit re-investigated the case.

“Now, I think the time is to call on the folks of the city government of Jacksonville to right this wrong,” Paul Wright said. He works with the Human Rights Defense Center.

RELATED: Willie Williams, who spent 44 years in prison on wrongful conviction, files lawsuit

Williams is seeking monetary damages, but that amount is up to a jury.

David Chapman from the State Attorney’s Office had the following to say concerning the lawsuit:

“Mr. Williams received relief when his sentence was vacated. Though admissible into evidence in the 1970s, the State did not disclose to the defendant’s attorneys that investigating detectives used hypnosis during their investigation. This failure resulted in the defendant receiving a new trial. With the passage of time and the loss of critical witnesses, the State could not proceed. During our investigation, there were no findings to support a claim of exoneration, innocence, or that law enforcement conspired against Mr. Williams.”

—  David Chapman, State Attorney’s Office, 4th Circuit

The Sheriff’s Office and the City of Jacksonville said it cannot comment on pending litigation.

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