Archie Williams: Wrongfully convicted man who spent 37 years in jail now favourite to win America’s Got Talent
A man who spent nearly 37 years in jail after being falsely convicted of rape is now a front-runner to win America’s Got Talent.
Archie Williams, who was exonerated and freed last year, told judges he used to visualise himself on the show while watching it in prison.
He was accused of raping and stabbing a 30-year-old white woman at her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1982, even though his fingerprints were not found at the scene.
Three people also testified that Williams was at home at the time of the crime, however the following year he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Williams has always maintained his innocence.
Speaking on America’s Got Talent, he said: “I knew I was innocent, I didn’t commit a crime.
“But being a poor black kid, I didn’t have the ability to fight the state of Louisiana.”
After spending more than 10 years in maximum security prison Louisiana State Penitentiary, the Innocence Project took up his case.
The non-profit legal organisation works to overturn wrongful convictions through the use of DNA testing.
After campaigning for 24 years, a new analysis of fingerprints at the scene identified a serial rapist as the man responsible for the crime – proving Williams’s innocence.
Just seven days later, all charges against Williams were dismissed and his convictions were quashed, and he was released from jail in March 2019.
Williams says it was during his time in prison that he turned to singing to escape his “nightmare”.
His audition for the show, which will air tonight in America on NBC, was described by top judge Simon Cowell as something he “will never forget for the whole of my life”.
Williams sings Elton John’s 1974 song Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.
Lyrics including, “I’d just allow a fragment of your life to wander free, ’cause losing everything is like the sun going down on me”, take on particular poignancy in his rendition.
The singer received a standing ovation from both the judges and the audience.
Elton John himself tweeted to say he was “moved to tears” by the performance, comparing Williams’s spirit to that of Nelson Mandela.
Williams has described appearing on the show as “the chance of a lifetime”.
Cowell, creator of the talent show, has now become an ambassador for the Innocence Project.