Clifford Williams Jr. was 34 and his nephew, Nathan Myers, was 18 when they went to a party back in May 1976.
When two women were shot in a nearby apartment, one of them fatally, the two were quickly arrested.
The surviving woman told Jacksonville, Florida, police that Williams and Myers emptied their guns from the foot of the bed she shared with the murdered woman.
But evidence showed the shots were all fired from the same gun from outside.
Still, Williams and Myers were convicted after a two-day trial at which their attorneys presented no witnesses or evidence.
The pair always maintained their innocence, throughout the trial and the next 42 years they spent behind bars. Now, after a first-of-its kind review by prosecutors, the state of Florida finally agrees.
An investigation from the state attorney’s Conviction Integrity Review unit determined that “it no longer has confidence in the integrity of the convictions,” according to a press release from State Attorney Melissa W. Nelson.
Williams, now 76, and Myers, 61, were wrongfully convicted in the murder of Jeanette Williams (no relation) and attempted murder of Nina Marshall, Nelson’s office said.
On Thursday, Judge Angela Cox vacated their convictions, and the state dismissed the indictments.
“I lost almost 43 years of my life that I can never get back,” Myers said in a report from the state attorney. “But I am looking ahead and will focus on enjoying my freedom with my family.”
The state attorney established the conviction review unit in 2017 and began reviewing Myers’ petition in 2018. Prosecutors say this is the first time an investigation by the unit has led to a release.
“We have a continuing, post-conviction ethical obligation to pursue justice when we become aware of material evidence suggesting a conviction is not correct,” Nelson said.