03/13/2013 12:24 pm ET

Johnny Williams Exonerated: 14 Years Later, Attempted Rape Convict Cleared In California

After 14 years behind bars for an ugly crime he did not commit, Johnny Williams is free.

The 37-year-old from Oakland, Calif. was exonerated of an attempted rape conviction on Friday, according to NBC News.

"I'm truly happy," Williams said. "Everything happens for a reason."

Williams was cleared after a DNA test of the clothes the victim -- a 9-year-old girl -- was wearing gave negative results. She was accosted in 1998 by a man who called himself "Johnny," but it wasn't Williams. Still, he served out his entire prison sentence.

The girl's mother told police her daughter could have been attacked by Williams, who was a family friend, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The girl later identified Williams as her assailant.

"At the time, lab technicians took two small cloth samples from the girl's T-shirt but found no DNA evidence," the paper reported.

Williams told the Chronicle he's not mad at the people who put him in prison.

"God is good," Williams said. "People make mistakes. I've never been mad at the (girl's) family. But I did wonder at times, 'Why would someone single me out for this?'"

In 2010, Williams' case was taken up by the California DNA Project which, along with its partners, successfully worked to clear his name.

A press release from the Northern California Innocence Project stated that Williams' case highlights "flaws with the justice system, especially with eyewitness identification and false confessions."

The release said Williams was put in a lineup despite not matching the girl's initial description of her attacker. They also did so knowing the girl was aware her mother believed Williams was the culprit.

After the girl picked him out of the lineup, cops interrogated him. Though he told police 45 times that he didn't attempt to rape the girl, authorities told him "they had dozens of witnesses, security video, and DNA evidence," the release said.

Eventually, Williams gave in and confessed.

"We are thrilled the state has recognized Johnny’s innocence and cleared his name,” Linda Starr, NCIP's legal director, said in the release. "Of the 303 innocent people exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing, nearly 75 percent involved eyewitness misidentification. Thus, in cases relying almost exclusively on eyewitnesses, we’ve learned that DNA evidence is the only way to conclusively prove innocence.”



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