MEMPHIS TN (IFS) -- William Dillon will not get one red cent for being falsely accused, because, they said he pleaded guilty to a position of a pill. In America, we call that an injustice where the crime does not fit the sentence. But the State of Florida is fighting it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. They don't want to pay him for the wrong they have put him through. - KHS
William Michael Dillon's redemption songs
Wrongfully imprisoned 27 years for murder, a Florida man has a story to tell in song. An Evanston-based producer is helping him tell it.
October 07, 2010|
By Mark Caro, Tribune reporter
William Dillon was a good kind of jumpy as he prepared to take the stage. He had performed live, but this crowd, unlike prior audiences, wasn't made up of criminals doing time.
In those earlier performances, Dillon was one of them, and yet he wasn't. He'd been convicted of murder without having committed the crime. He made this point from behind bars repeatedly.
For years."I'm ready to get it on, no doubt," said Dillon, 51, who at 6-foot-4 resembles a strapping, more chiseled version of the late comedian Phil Hartman. He wore a black T-shirt with the words "NOT GUILTY" emblazoned on the front. "I mean, I've done this in front of hundreds of 'hardheads.' If you can put on a show for them guys and they cheer for you, then you can make it happen."
At Dillon's side was Jim Tullio, the man who brought him from Florida to Evanston and who would accompany him on acoustic guitar that late-summer night opening for folk singer Tom Paxton at the Evanston nightclub Space. A veteran music producer who has recorded Mavis Staples, Steve Goodman, members of the Band and many others, Tullio, 57, owns a studio in a converted Evanston butcher shop. In a back room above a doorway is mounted a TV screen that Tullio keeps tuned to the Investigation Discovery cable channel.
Taking a break in late May, Tullio glanced up to catch an "On the Case With Paula Zahn" report. Typically Tullio would watch for a couple of minutes before returning to his mixing board, but this story hooked him. It was outrageous, heartbreaking, inspiring — certainly to Tullio, who called the show's producers to try to contact the subject of the report, William Dillon.
What Tullio saw was the story of a 22-year-old man convicted of first-degree murder under bizarre circumstances: He was tied to the crime by an eventually discredited evidence-sniffing dog, a witness who recanted her testimony after admitting she was sleeping with the case's lead detective, and a jailhouse snitch who later admitted he'd fabricated his account of Dillon's confession in exchange for a dropped sexual-battery charge.
Dillon was sentenced to life and moved to Florida State Prison, which houses many of the state's most violent criminals, and within an hour of entering his cell he was sexually assaulted by several inmates.
Twenty-seven years passed, years during which Dillon said he seriously considered suicide. Then DNA evidence finally confirmed what he'd known all along: He had nothing to do with the slaying. In at 22, out at 49. Have a nice life.
Oh, and because at age 19 Dillon had been arrested for having a Quaalude in his pocket — a felony, though he later said he didn't knowingly plead guilty to that offense — Florida declared him ineligible to receive any financial compensation for those lost years.
One way he survived, Dillon had told Zahn, was by writing songs, and now he wanted to record them, perhaps to launch a music career at his relatively advanced age. A light bulb flashed in Tullio's mind.