Philadelphia man who was released after 25 years on death row fatally shot

Christopher Williams was released in February 2021.

A Philadelphia man who served nearly three decades behind bars, including 25 years on the city’s death row list, was fatally shot last Friday. Christopher Williams was gunned down while attending the funeral of another former prisoner immediately after stepping out of his vehicle.

Local outlet The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Williams, 62, was in North Philadelphia attending the funeral of Tyree Little before his killing. He was following a funeral procession by car and once Williams stepped out of his vehicle, he was shot in the head.

(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Williams was released from prison in February 2021, proudly celebrating his exoneration of four murders. Williams was eventually acquitted of two other murders, and as the outlet notes, he said that it was the first time the city achieved such a feat. 

“Never in the history of the Pennsylvania judicial system has someone been charged with six murders, acquitted of two and now exonerated of four,” Williams said when released, The Inquirer reports.

The shooting of Williams sparked concern among other imprisoned individuals, including Theophalis “Bilal” Wilson, a codefendant of Williams who served 28 years in connection to a triple murder. Wilson was also exonerated.

“Although we’re actually innocent, not everyone believes it,” Wilson told the outlet. According to Wilson, he spent the time in prison simply for being friends with Williams after the lawyers accused the pair of gang activity and Wilson assisting Williams with killing three New York drug dealers.

“I spent 28 years in jail for knowing him. I have to be on guard.”

From accounts obtained by The Inquirer, Williams left behind his old life and worked on a local carpentry business, also with plans to enact a reentry program for inmates leaving the prison system.

Described by other formerly incarcerated individuals as someone who made efforts to support other prisoners, Williams also found himself struggling with the outside world. He reportedly missed “the solitude of his old cell.”

Williams also filed a still-pending lawsuit against the city in 2021, naming former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, trial prosecutor David Desiderio and 17 police detectives among the defendants in the matter.

Philadelphia police are still searching for the suspect or suspects who shot Williams. He is survived by six children.