Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Dwayne Williams

Other Orleans County, Louisiana exonerations
On the evening of March 22, 1994, 22-year-old Laston Clark and two friends, Nathanial and Alton Morgan, visited Greta and Jon Dixon at their home at 7728 Hickory Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. At about 11:15 p.m., Clark and Nathaniel Morgan were working on their car, trying to get it started, when two men rushed up and began shooting.

Clark ran down the street while Morgan took cover under the car. One gunman fired several shots at Morgan but missed. When he pointed the gun at Morgan’s face and fired, the gun jammed and did not fire. The gunman then fled on foot. Clark was found a half a block away, lying on the curb, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

Morgan told police that the gunman who chased Clark was armed with a shotgun. He said the gunman who shot at him was wielding a handgun in each hand.

Kenneth Templin told police he was inside his home when he heard gunshots. He went to his front door and saw two Black males running on Burdette Street toward Lake Pontchartrain. Templin said the men turned onto Spruce Street and entered a driveway between 7725 and 7727 Spruce Street. The two men came back out not long after and ran back down Spruce Street before turning onto Adams Street toward the Mississippi River.

When detectives went to the Spruce Street address, they discovered a .30-caliber rifle, three handguns, a red sweatshirt, and a blue jacket beneath the house on the 7725 side of the driveway. Ultimately, a police firearms analysis report said that two of the recovered handguns were connected to bullets and casings recovered from the shooting.

The crime remained unsolved for months.

In November 1994, police arrested Alfred Moore, who had just turned 17, while he was driving a stolen car. Taken to the Juvenile Division, an officer told Moore that to be released to his foster parents, he would have to give police some information. In response, Moore said that on the night Clark was killed, Moore had been selling drugs nearby when 22-year-old Dwayne Williams and 19-year-old Daniel Rideau approached and told him to “get off the corner.” They promised to come back.

Moore said that Williams and Rideau returned not long after in an older model four-door light brown station wagon with a white stripe on the side. He said 17-year-old Donille Ross was driving.

According to Moore, the three waited in the station wagon until Clark and Morgan came out of the Dixon home. At that point, Moore said Ross drove toward Clark and Morgan. As the car got close, Williams and Rideau jumped out and began shooting. Moore said that after the shooting, Williams and Rideau got back into the station wagon, which fled the scene.

Police showed Moore separate photographic lineups and he separately identified Williams, Rideau, and Ross. Arrest warrants were issued. On January 5, 1995, Rideau and Williams were arrested. Ross was not prosecuted because in December 1994, he had been murdered.

Williams and Rideau were charged with the first-degree murder of Clark. On October 10, 1995, a jury was selected in Orleans Parish District Court. On October 11, Moore testified and identified Williams and Rideau as the gunmen. The prosecution presented evidence that the guns were recovered from the house next door to where Williams lived with his mother. During closing argument, one of the prosecutors declared, “Dwayne Williams put the gun where he keeps the guns, where we know the guns have been kept…He put the gun by his house.”

Two witnesses testified for the defense. Alfred Moore’s sister, Sonia Moore, testified that Moore was a troubled young man with mental health problems. David Thompson, who lived in the neighborhood, testified that he saw one of the gunmen, and he knew that the man was not Rideau, Williams, or Ross.

The jury began deliberating at 7:45 p.m. Shortly after 2 a.m. on October 12, it convicted both men of first-degree murder. Later that morning, the jury recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole.

After his conviction was upheld on appeal, Williams filed a public records request for the prosecution’s file. Ultimately, he received police reports that were not disclosed at his trial.

The reports included statements from one witness who said that a green Chevrolet Monte Carlo had been involved in the shooting and that the gunmen fled on foot, not in a car. A confidential informant told police the day after the shooting that a half hour before the shots were fired, the informant saw two Black males wearing masks waiting in the Monte Carlo near the Dixon residence. The informant said that he saw the masked men chase Clark and Morgan and shoot at them. Both men fled on foot, abandoning the vehicle. The informant said that there were shotgun shells lying on the seat of the vehicle for one or two days after the shooting.

The reports showed that police had impounded the Monte Carlo, which had been reported stolen, and recovered 21 latent fingerprints from items in the vehicle. The New Orleans police department crime laboratory had compared the prints to Williams’s prints and excluded him as the source.

In addition, the police reports noted that one latent print was found on one of the guns linked to the shooting. Williams had been excluded as the source of that print as well.

In another report, witness Steven Suter said he was in his home nearby when he heard the shots. He said he went to his front porch and saw a Black male holding a shotgun jogging down the street. Suter said he got a good look at the man’s face and knew the man did not live in the neighborhood. Suter had told police that he believed he would be able to identify the gunman if given the opportunity.

Another witness, Brant Johnson, who lived nearby, testified that he went to his front porch after hearing the shots. He said he saw a Black male carrying a shotgun hurriedly walking down Adams Street before turning onto Spruce Street. The police report said Johnson had “got a good look at the suspect’s face and probably could identify him if he saw him again.”

In 1998, attorney Kevin Boshea filed a petition for post-conviction relief based on the undisclosed reports. The motion was denied, but on appeal, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed that ruling as to Rideau, but not to Williams. The court did not explain its rationale. However, because Moore had identified Rideau as the person with the shotgun, any evidence that another person was the person with the shotgun was favorable only to Rideau.

On remand, in May 2003, Rideau pled guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Williams’s case remained dormant for the next seven years. In 2010, Boshea filed his appearance for Williams. Three years later, in 2013, Boshea filed an application for post-conviction relief and filed an amended petition in 2015.

The case was continued repeatedly for a ruling on whether there would be an evidentiary hearing on the petition. In October 2021, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Civil Rights Division agreed to review the case.

On August 31, 2022, the prosecution and the defense filed a joint agreement and motion to vacate Williams’s conviction. The motion referenced the reports that had not been disclosed to Williams prior to his trial.

The motion noted that the reports “cast doubt on [Williams’s] guilt and on the integrity of the process by which he was convicted.”

In the motion, the prosecution agreed that if Moore’s sister were called at a hearing, she would say that “no one should be in prison based on anything my brother said.” She would also testify that Moore had been severely mentally unstable all his life and was not a reliable witness.

In addition, Charles Moore, Alfred Moore’s cousin, told the prosecution that he was waiting to testify at the trial in 1995, but was not called. He would have testified that he was on the block near where Clark was killed, and that he knew “for a fact that his cousin Alfred Moore was not out there that day.” Charles Moore would have testified that he saw three or four men wearing masks pull up in a car and that he knew “that Dwayne Williams was not either out there that day or in the car. He would testify that he knows for a fact that Dwayne Williams is innocent and that, before his most recent institutionalization for mental illness, Alfred Moore told Charles that he wanted to do whatever he could to set right what he did to Mr. Williams.”

The motion said that Alfred Moore was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who, at the time of the filing of the motion, was institutionalized because of the severity of his affliction.

The motion also said that Rideau had admitted that he was involved, but Williams was not. Rideau, if called at a hearing, would testify that he used the green car left at the scene and he stashed the guns next to Williams’s mother’s house. Rideau would testify that he hid the guns there because Williams had not been involved.

As part of the Civil Rights Division reinvestigation, the fingerprints from the car and the gun were submitted to the Next Generation Identification and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, but no results were obtained.

The motion was granted and on September 1, 2022, the conviction was vacated, and Williams was released. He had served nearly 27 years in prison since his conviction.

In June 2023, attorneys Herbert Larson and Kelly Mitchell filed a federal civil rights suit seeking damages for Williams’s wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 11/21/2023
Last Updated: 11/21/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1994
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No