A Mississippi man who spent 12 years in prison for a crime he was innocent of has been shot and killed.
In 1994 Cedric Willis was out celebrating the birth of his son when he was arrested and charged with rape, robbery and murder. It took 12 years for DNA evidence to fully exonerate Willis and since his release, in 2006, he's been a motivational speaker and help to his community.
In a seemingly unprovoked incident, on Monday June 24 Willis was fatally shot just two blocks away from his home. The Jackson Police Department have said that they do not have a motive, or a suspect, at this time.
When Willis' mother, Elayne Willis, was contacted by investigators she said “The only thing I know for certain is my son is dead. He left home and he didn’t come back. . . I don’t know what, why, I don’t know anything.”
"He'd been working out, he was feeling good," says Emily Maw, his attorney with the Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO). The two had become good friends and Maw says the last time she saw him three weeks ago, "things seemed to be going so well for him."
Willis was failed by the country again and again, Maw says.
"America hurts black men in so many ways. Two of the main ways it does that is through the criminal justice system and the utter failure to control guns. Cedric has been a victim of both and that's particularly tragic."
The Innocence Project of New Orleans released a statement saying in part "Cedric, a free man for just over 13 years - barely longer than the 12 years he was wrongly convicted - was so much more to us than his case. He was a proud voter, a public speaker, a sometime-fitness fanatic, an introspective soul, a devoted shopper, a son, brother, father, friend, and a first-class comedian."
Our hearts go out to Cedric's family. We pray that those responsible for his death are brought to justice.