Meet the Exonerees

Hayes Williams

State: Louisiana
Date of Birth: 1949
Incident Date: 1967
Age at Arrest: 19
Conviction Date: 1967
Age When Exonerated: 48
Exonerated Date: 05/15/1997
Time Served: 30
Conviction: Murder, robbery
False Confession: Yes
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

Hayes Williams, nineteen years old, was outside of a gas station while two acquaintances were inside and began arguing with the owner. Those two and the owner pulled out pistols and shot at each other; the owner was killed. All three men were convicted of robbery and murder based on witness testimony, though no robbery occurred. Mr. Williams' attorney (later disbarred) told Williams he could be free in ten years and six months if he pleaded guilty, or subject to the electric chair if he were convicted at trial. Under pressure from the attorney and his family, Williams pleaded guilty, and his ten year sentence resulted in a life sentence due to a change in the law while Williams was incarcerated. Duplessis and Hudson, his two peers, were both sentenced to death, although a state judge later ruled that witnesses had lied in the case and prosecutors had withheld evidence. Duplessis, the actual shooter, was pardoned in 1988. Mr. Hudson's conviction was overturned in 1993. However, it wasn't until 1996 that attorneys for Williams won him a new trial in 1996. Prosecutors decided not to re-try him, and Williams was released. Hayes Williams is known for being one of five prisoners in the Angola prison to file lawsuits in the 1970s resulting in a complete overhaul of the Angola prison system -- once regarded as the most brutal and corrupt prison in the country.