Before his exoneration for a murder he didn’t commit, Bill Dillon said that music played a key role in helping him endure life in prison.
Now a free man, Dillon uses his experience as a wrongfully convicted inmate to inspire his songwriting. The first song the Brevard County, FL native wrote was a tune called “Black Robes and Lawyers.”
“Bill Dillon’s case was a travesty of justice. From the very beginning to the end, it was a case of fabrication,” said attorney Mike Pirolo, who worked to win Dillon his freedom. “Bill Dillon’s life was stolen from him.”
According to CBS News, the then-20-year-old Dillon had been a promising baseball prospect in August 1981, just about to get his second tryout with the Detroit Tigers. Things went wrong when police discovered the badly-beaten body of a 40-year-old man on the beach near Dillon’s home.
Despite the suspect in the murder being described as a 5’10” man with a mustache, authorities convicted Dillon.
“I’m 6’4″. And I never ever had a mustache,” Dillon explained. “There couldn’t have been anything in their minds that made them think I did it other than my size … that I fit the profile of beating a man to death.”
He then spent more than half his life — 27 years — in prison, before a 2008 DNA test revealed he wasn’t the killer. Ever since his release, he’s been turning his experiences into song.
While Dillon’s case is a prime example of botched justice, some states are working to reduce their number of wrongfully-convicted citizens.
The Attorney General’s Office of New Hampshire, for example, is currently encouraging police departments to strengthen their eyewitness identification procedures during their investigations. Eyewitness misidentification is the main cause behind about 52.3% of wrongful convictions.
During eyewitness identification, police will now be required to ensure the suspect doesn’t stand out, that the witness views photos one at a time and that an officer who doesn’t know the suspect’s description administer the identification process, the New Hampshire Daily Journal reports.
Fourteen other states have implemented these same eyewitness identification policies, and Massachusetts is in the process of implementing them as well.
“We want to protect people and we want to make sure we do that with the best possible research and tools that we have available,” said Richard Crate, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. “This policy is just a small step in the work that’s already being done across the state.”