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.
In 1981, Bill was wrongfully convicted of first degree murder and sent to prison for life.
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 day, with his sister Debbie. November 2008.
Bill Dillon and his sister Debbie.