I loved the music, but the story was even better. The emotions I experienced during William Michael Dillon’s performance at The Moon September 7 ran the gamut from utter despair to complete elation enhanced by Dillon’s wry humor. Even though I am familiar with his story, it never ceases to amaze.
This tale contains just about all of the elements that can contribute to a wrongful conviction. A young man with a drug conviction out for a night of partying is evasive with cops staking out a murder crime scene. It seems the young man is trying to hide the joint in his hand. He hears later that the cops want to question him so he calls them up and they take him in. He has nothing to hide (since he’s innocent) so he willingly answers their questions, follows their orders and volunteers to take a lie detector test.
In return for his cooperation, the 22-year-old is falsely convicted of murder and serves over 27 years before, through his own handwritten petition and the help of the Florida Innocence Project, he is released from prison and eventually exonerated. But if we let the story end here, we fail to grasp Dillon’s message. While he does not dwell on the past, he learned from it to face the future a wiser man. So should we all.
It can happen to any of us. When police and prosecutors, such as those in Brevard County in this instance, manufacture false evidence, intimidate and threaten witnesses into lying on the stand, and basically decide that someone is guilty because it looks that way and they need to close the case – it can happen to any of us. In spite of the fact that witnesses recanted testimony almost immediately and that testimony put Dillon essentially in three places at once, the jury still convicted him. In spite of the fact that a major prosecution witness was engaged in a sexual relationship with one of the detectives, the jury still convicted him. In spite of the fact there was not a shred of physical evidence to tie Dillon to the crime, the jury still convicted him. In spite of the fact two witnesses provided an alibi, the jury still convicted him. And it took over 27 years to right the wrong.
Dillon’s message delivered both through song and story is one we should all take to heart. It can be a dangerous world out there. Take care. And even though Dillon pointed out with glee to all the lawyers present that he’s “one for one” in writing successful petitions, I’ll bet he would add one more piece of advice. If you run into trouble with the law, call an attorney and remain silent.
My advice is to buy Dillon’s CD and don’t miss an opportunity to see him perform. You won’t regret it.
The CD, Black Robes and Lawyers, is available on iTunes, click here.