Corey Williams Walks Free

For Immediate Release:
     Ben Cohen 
     The Promise of Justice Initiative 
     (504) 529-5955

NEW ORLEANS (May 22, 2018) – Louisiana failed Corey when he was two years old with lead levels ten times what were safe, knowing he was being poisoned every day and doing nothing. Louisiana failed Corey when he was eleven, scared and alone; he went for mental health care, and was sent home. Louisiana failed Corey when he was sent to Tallulah as a young teenager, to be beaten by guards and unprotected from violence. And Louisiana failed Corey when he was arrested and charged with a first degree murder that he did not commit. When the police officers and prosecutors who were sworn to protect him decided that it was easier to pin a murder on him then ensure that justice prevail. And Louisiana seared those failures into our collective soul, when — in a toxic combination of hubris and indifference — overzealous prosecutors sent Corey to death row. He was the youngest person sentenced to death at the time of his conviction.

District Attorney Stewart did a remarkable (because it was unusual) and decent thing in recognizing that a person of Corey’s special vulnerabilities, having served 20 years at Louisiana State Penitentiary should be allowed to go home. It was an act of decency in a justice system that can often be inhumane and indifferent.

We believe that there were serious, valid, legal claims warranting a new trial. Claims that over 40 former prosecutors, along with the MacArthur Justice Center in Washington D.C., Innocence Project of New Orleans, Fair Punishment Project and many others, thought were worthy of the Supreme Court review.  But if the cost of Corey coming home today was admitting to manslaughter based upon 16 year old Corey’s possession of a stolen weapon and obstruction of justice for falsely confessing, is weighed against years of court battles, then the cost is something we endure together.  Today is a vindication of all of Corey’s claims of wrongful conviction; Blythe Taplin and Amir Ali walked Corey Williams out of prison today.  Corey’s release will not fix what was done, but it will begin to restore our commitment to justice.

America broke its promise to Corey, and many other children like him.  Even if this time-served plea prevents Corey from being described as the 12th person exonerated from death row in Louisiana, we at the Promise of Justice Initiative recognize that it is these broken promises that deprive Louisiana the moral authority to execute its citizens, and hope that in the next years, Louisiana will lead the movement towards redemption by repealing the death penalty, improving the justice system, and doing the hard work to ensure that no child ever endures what Corey did.

A fund-raising page for Corey is here: more information about Corey’s case is here:


The Corey Williams Case: Everything Wrong with Louisiana's Criminal Justice System


16 year old Corey Williams' case lays bare the scope of injustice in Louisiana's criminal justice system. Corey's case is rooted in shoddy police work, aggressive prosecutors, and the desire of judges to shield and evade misconduct in a case that was prosecuted wildly and with no consideration of the facts. 

In 1998, Corey Williams, who had just turned 16, was standing in front of a friend's house when shots were fired. Eyewitnesses saw several older men steal money and pizza from the man who was shot. These were the men who implicated Corey as the shooter. 

Corey was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. Prior to his conviction, Williams had been hospitalized for extreme lead poisoning and still sucked his thumb. A district judge overturned his death sentence in 2004 as a result of his intellectual disabilities. 


Fingerprints on the murder weapon belonged to a different man.

The victim's blood was found on clothing worn by a third man.

Corey Williams was found frightened and hiding under a sheet on a couch at his grandmother's house. He initially denied being part of the crime, but after being questioned all night, he finally caved and admitted guilt, saying,

"I'm tired. I'm ready to go home and lay down."


With a complete lack of physical evidence linking Corey to the crime, prosecutors failed to reveal that the three men involved in the murder all lied and pointed the finger at Corey, an intellectually disabled child. Police interviews show that officers knew that Corey was disabled and shaped the written record to fit their theory in order to get a conviction. 


The withheld recordings showed police suspected the other suspects planned to frame Corey Williams for the killing. 

Legally, Corey's attorneys should have had access to this information. Prosecutors illegally withheld the evidence, and Corey had no chance at a fair trial. 


Now a group of former prosecutors and Justice Department officials have filed a brief in support of our petition to ask the court to review and reverse Corey Williams' murder conviction, especially in light of his "severe intellectual disabilities. The MacArthur Justice Center joins us in our petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review his tragic case.

Amici Curiae Briefs have been filed in support of Corey Williams by the Former Prosecutors and Department of Justice Officials, The Innocence Project of New Orleans, and the Fair Punishment Project, and the Monroe H. Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics, The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics, and the Ethics Bureau at Yale here

SCOTUSblog takes up the case in their March 19th Episode.

Check out more coverage of Corey's case here: 

Michael Kunzelman, Lawyers: Prosecutors withheld evidence of teen's innocence, Associated Press (Apr. 8, 2018). 

Josh Delk, Ex-prosecutors, DOJ officials back Supreme Court petition to reverse teen's murder conviction, The Hill (Apr. 7, 2018).

Associated Press and Minyvonne Burke, Lawyers accuse prosecutors of withholding information that would have proved innocence of intellectually disabled teen who has spent two decades in prison for murder, Daily Mail (Apr. 7, 2018)

Ian Millhiser, Prosecutors withheld key evidence in disabled man's murder conviction. Will SCOTUS act?, Think Progress (Mar. 8, 2018).

Mark Joseph Stern, How to Frame a Man for Murder, Slate (Dec. 22, 2015).

Andrew Cohen, The Corey Williams Story, Brennan Center for Justice (Dec. 17, 2015).