The Guilford County District Attorney’s office obtains convictions “in the vast majority” of homicide cases,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann told Triad City Beat last year, adding that it was “a fairly rare occurrence” for the DA’s office to have to dismiss charges for lack of evidence.
“Oftentimes, more investigation is done, which adds to the evidence against that person,” he said. “In other cases, the harder you look, the more inadequacies you see in the evidence and the case against the defendant.”
Michael Rich, the Elon Law School professor, said the dismissed charge against Nathan Wilson resonates with a national discussion about how long people who are awaiting trial should be held in jail.
“A murder case is a little odd because you want prosecutors to take the time to make sure they have the evidence,” he said. “It’s a hard argument to say that people accused of murder should be out on the street.”
The case holds an ambiguous significance for the local court system, he added.
“This strikes me as a funny case,” Rich said. “In some sense we ought to be happy that if there’s not enough evidence to move forward that the district attorney dropped the charge. It’s this issue of time spent in jail that’s troubling — and the idea that a person spent any time in jail at all without evidence. There’s a really negative consequence there.”
Dolly Manion put it more bluntly: “A man lost 11 months of his life. Not to mention the collateral damage inflicted on his small children and his mother and girlfriend.”
Meanwhile, whether Nathan Wilson is the actual culprit or not, the recent turn of events means that at this point there’s no justice for the family of Gerald Williamson.
“Foot did it — I don’t see nobody else mad at him,” Dona Williamson said. “Foot knows he did it. They keep sending messages on Facebook with fake pages: ‘Dona, that wasn’t Foot. You know Foot would fight Gerald; he wouldn’t kill him.’ They tell me all kinds of crazy stuff. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to hear it.’ And then they delete their page. People was like, ‘It wasn’t Foot, Dona.’
“Okay, if you knew it wasn’t Foot, then who it is then? Just let me know.”
Nia Hill and Zack Astran contributed reporting to this story through Triad City Beat’s investigative journalism program.