Posted in Issues

Wake up, Florida!

It’s not uncommon, but it is tragic. A person is wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to prison for decades. It happened to Bill Dillon, a guy who went to my high school.

I wasn’t friends with Bill but I remember him very well (and his older sister, Debbie). He was a gangly kid with a really great smile and a friendly demeanor. If you needed 35 cents to buy french fries in the school cafeteria. Bill seemed like the kind of guy that would lend it to you and not bug you about paying it back.

Bill Dillon YB

In 1981, Bill was wrongfully convicted of first degree murder and sent to prison for life.

The good news is that Bill was released from prison late last year thanks to DNA evidence and the good work of the folks at the Innocence Project of Florida (details of the case here).

The bad news is that he spent almost 28 years in prison and the State of Florida is holding up his compensation because according to state law, the exonerated are eligible for compensation only if they have no prior record. Here’s an op-ed piece by Marshall Frank suggesting that ‘prior record’ should be restricted to acts of violence.

There must be some politician in Florida (or higher up) who would like to mount the white horse and make things right in this case. Unmerited suffering for decades due to wrongful conviction is a tragic miscarriage of justice, and the least Florida can do is follow the example of Texas (words I thought would never come out of my mouth—but Texas has comprehensive compensation plan) and pay Bill for robbing him of the life he deserved to live as a free man. Money doesn’t restore the years lost. At the same time, financial security provides a necessary foundation for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Bill's release w Debbie

Bill’s release day, with his sister Debbie. November 2008.

Bill and Debbie Dillon

Bill Dillon and his sister Debbie.


This is a personal blog. Expect a potpourri of stuff.

9 thoughts on “Wake up, Florida!

  1. I don’t know the details of bill’s record, but I am nor surprised that the DA took the path of least resistance and railroaded someone already known to law enforcement.

    I rejoice at his release and hope he gets some compensation but nothing will get him the decades of his life back.

  2. Thanks for covering this. I was following the story earlier last year, but somehow missed this great news that Bill had been released. This is my primary reason for opposing the death penalty. Now let’s hope (work!) to ensure Florida does right by Bill and any other wrongfully-imprisoned citizen.

  3. That’s a hell of a story. gaga 4 dada makes an interesting point about railroading someone with a record.

    Thank goodness for DNA evidence. If only we could use it to cut through red tape.

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