Years lost: 22
Fulton County, GA | April 5, 1985
On September 19, 1985, Willie “Pete” Williams, a 23-year-old part-time painter, was sentenced to 45 years for a rape he did not commit. The DNA evidence that exonerated Pete later implicated a serial rapist.
Pete was a passenger in a car pulled over for a traffic violation when police noted that he resembled the composite sketch of a serial rapist in a nearby neighborhood.
The officers included Pete in a line-up, and two victims and a witness identified Pete as the perpetrator. The actual rapist was not included in the line-up.
After identifying Williams in a lineup, a victim was asked by a detective, “From zero to 100 percent, how sure are you?” She answered “120 percent sure.”
Based solely on faulty eyewitness identification, and despite arguments Pete’s attorney made about an alternate suspect, a jury convicted Pete of rape, aggravated sodomy, and kidnapping. The judge sentenced him to 45 years in prison.
Pete’s conviction and imprisonment did not stop the rapes. Three more sex assaults soon followed, matching the same pattern as before.
During the 22 long years of his incarceration, Pete steadfastly proclaimed his innocence to anyone who would listen. Pete wrote to GIP upon learning of our existence, and GIP soon accepted his case and located the first victim’s rape kit at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in June 2006. A judge granted Pete’s motion for DNA testing in November 2006 and the DNA results conclusively proved that Pete Williams was innocent. That same DNA implicated Kenneth Wicker as the rapist, the same man that Williams’ attorney had correctly identified as the perpetrator over two decades earlier!
Pete Williams Exonerated | January 23, 2007
On January 23, 2007, after serving over 22 years of a 45-year sentence, Pete Williams was released from prison at the age of 45. When asked how it felt to be released after all the years he spent in prison, Pete said, “Being free—nothing can replace that. Freedom, it means everything.”