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Exonerated by DNA, Wrongly Convicted Man Sings National Anthem at Rays Game

Posted Jul 19, 2012 9:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Once an aspiring baseball player, William Dillon spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

On Wednesday evening, Dillon sang the National Anthem at a big league game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians. Fox News, ABC News, the Huffington Post and the Jonathan Turley blog have stories.

Dillon was 21 years old when he first came under suspicion in the beating death of a man found dead at a beach. Dillon was at the beach, and police questioned him about the crime. At the time, he was awaiting a second try-out with the Detroit Tigers, according to ABC.

The arrest was “the start of a free fall down a very dark hole,” the Tampa Bay Times reported in a story published before the game. “Later, a dog handler with dog scent evidence against him was discredited. A witness recanted and said she had sex with the lead investigator. A jail informant who said Dillon confessed had pending charges dropped. But the jury had said guilty. Dillon went to prison.”

Dillon was freed in 2008 with the help of DNA evidence and the Innocence Project of Florida. Its testing found that DNA from a bloody shirt found at the scene did not come from Dillon. He now plays in a band made up of exonerated former prisoners and has a new CD featuring the title song, “Black Robes and Lawyers.”

“I lost hope but I put it back into myself,” he told Fox News. “I picked myself up and said, ‘No matter what, through it all, I’ve got to make it and survive.’ I went from being angry for 13, 14 years to deciding that I didn’t like who I was when I was angry, to deciding that I wanted to change my life.”

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