On the evening of January 4, 1998, in Shreveport, Louisiana, a group of neighborhood friends came up with an idea—they would order a pizza. The deliveryman, 23-year-old Jarvis Griffin, arrived at the house where a group of friends, including 16-year-old Corey Williams and 20-year-old Chris Moore (nicknamed “Rapist”), were hanging out.
At the time, according to court filings from Williams’s attorneys, Williams was known as someone who would take the fall for anyone, “what one might refer to as a ‘chump,’” a family member said. He reportedly had an IQ of 68, had been institutionalized multiple times for intellectual disability, and suffered from a severe case of lead poisoning.
After delivering the pizza and collecting his money, Griffin returned to his car. Soon afterward, he was slumped over the wheel, dead from gunshots. Witnesses, including Williams himself, initially told investigators that several men were involved in shooting and robbing Griffin, including then-16-year old Gabriel Logan, his older brother Nathan Logan, and Moore (“Rapist”). During interrogations, however, the older boys, the Logan brothers and Rapist, directed police to the gun and claimed that Williams had shot Griffin, after which they had all divvied up the money.
But the physical evidence didn’t match up. The only fingerprints on the gun were Nathan Logan’s—who was never charged. The only blood was on Gabriel Logan’s shirt. The gun was Rapist’s. And the money? Williams didn’t have any of it. The other men had split the proceeds.
Instead, Williams was found that evening by law enforcement trembling and urine-soaked at his grandmother’s house, huddled under a sheet; he had peed in his pants out of fear of the older boys. Still, he was dragged to the police station that night. In his first interview with police, Williams said that he had seen Gabriel Logan shoot the victim; he also told police that Gabriel had called him and threatened to kill him if he didn’t take the fall for the crime. But, at 8:30 the next morning, after 12 hours of continuous interrogation and no sleep, he confessed to shooting the driver. He then asked if he could go home and lie down.
Not long after, Williams insisted he was innocent and his confession, false. But in October of 2000, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sent to death row. (Rapist was the star prosecution witness who testified against Williams.) This sentence was later commuted to life without parole after a judge determined that Williams is intellectually disabled and therefore not eligible for the death penalty. Nonetheless, up until May 21, he was still serving time in Angola Prison.
Then, on May 22, in a surprise settlement agreement, the Caddo Parish district attorney’s office agreed to release Williams immediately in exchange for a plea of manslaughter. This was a tremendous turnaround, a victory for which Williams had fought for two decades, first largely on his own, but increasingly with a growing base of support. In recent years, as the movement to hold corrupt prosecutors accountable has grown, Williams’s case has become a symbol of the most flagrant prosecutorial abuse—as well as of all that is broken in Louisiana’s criminal-justice system. With his release, justice finally seemed to prevail.