Innocent Man Released After 27 Years

Alejandra de la Fuente — November 18, 2008 @ 9:00 AM — Comments (0)

Innocent Man Released After 27 Years
DNA Reveals Widespread Corruption in Brevard County

Today, at approximately 5 p.m., William Dillon will walk out of Brevard County Jail after being freed pending trial.  Last Friday, the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court vacated his murder conviction after DNA testing proved his innocence.  The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) paid for the DNA testing and drafted the post-conviction pleadings in Dillon’s case.

Dillon’s 27 years of wrongful incarceration equals the longest time served by any of the 223 DNA exonerees nationwide. He will be the third man to be exonerated in Brevard County in recent years.

The State Attorney’s Office asserts that it plans to retry Mr. Dillon, though if it could or will do so remains to be seen.  “I don’t see how they could re-try this case.  All they have is a fraud, an admitted perjurer, a snitch, and a half-blind eyewitness,” said Melissa Montle, Staff Attorney with IPF.

At today’s bail hearing, the State asserted that at re-trial it planned to rely heavily on the testimony of Donna Parrish, Dillon’s sometime sexual partner, who, at trial, suggested that she saw Dillon at the scene of the crime hours after the murder.  During the investigation, Parrish was both threatened by and had a sexual liaison with the Sherriff’s Office lead investigator. Parrish recanted her trial testimony, in full, under oath, less than a month after trial. “After changing her story so many times, Donna Parrish’s testimony has no credibility,” said David Menschel, Legal Director of IPF. “Rather than putting Parrish back on the stand, the State should prosecute her for perjury.” Most disturbingly, it appears that the State continues its efforts to manipulate Parrish’s testimony to this day.

Dillon’s case is also troubling because it involved the now-discredited testimony of dog handler John Preston, a man who has been exposed as a fraud by both courts and the national media.   But, as Menschel explained, “This is not just a case about a corrupt dog handler. There was a conspiracy between that dog handler and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. There is a culture of corruption in Brevard County.  They care more about convicting the suspect than convicting the right person – and they’re willing to manufacture evidence in order to do it.”

Both Wilton Dedge and Juan Ramos were also wrongfully convicted on the basis of Preston’s testimony. Seth Miller, Executive Director of the IPF, called for an investigation into the conduct of the Brevard County State Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office as well as a comprehensive review of the dozens of cases in which John Preston testified: “Governor Crist needs to take a hard look at what’s been going on in Brevard County and restore public confidence in Florida’s criminal justice system. Our organization would be happy to assist the Governor in these efforts.”

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding and freeing innocent people in Florida prisons.

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