It has been three years since William Michael Dillon was released from a Florida prison after serving nearly 27 years for a murder DNA proves he didn’t commit. In that time, he has written music, been discovered by a veteran music producer and started to record his first album.
It was a fateful viewing of an episode of “On the Case With Paula Zahn” that profiled Dillon’s case that would help launch his music career.
Jim Tullio, an Evanston, Illinois-based producer would routinely glance up at the television in his recording studio while arranging music, according to the Chicago Tribune. But the day Tullio caught the introduction to the program that highlighted Dillon’s wrongful conviction case, he couldn’t look away. Tullio watched the whole episode and called the show’s producers in hopes of contacting Dillon, who during the interview spoke about his desire to make music.
(Above, Dillon performs with fellow exonerees Raymond Towler and Antoine Day at the Innocence Project’s Celebration of Freedom and Justice in New York earlier this year.)
Tullio learned that Dillon was wrongfully convicted in 1981 based on a questionable eyewitness identification, unreliable testimony from the handler of a scent-tracking dog and testimony from a jailhouse informant. Dillon was sentenced to life and moved to Florida State Prison.
“I thought if anybody needs a break in this world, this is the guy,” Tullio said.
Tullio finally tracked down Dillon and offered to fly him to Chicago to record an album at no cost. It was exactly what Dillon had been hoping for – to finally record the songs he’d written in prison that he’d written out on toilet paper.
Dillon performed and wrote with Tullio during a two-week visit this past summer. The songs they recorded address his experience being wrongfully convicted and also look toward the future.
“Ultimately what he wants is to be recognized as an artist, like anybody, not just a guy that spent 27 years in prison,” Tullio said. “I want a fan out there to go, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to hear William Dillon’s next record,’ like they would say about Van Morrison or anyone. I never want Bill to lose the fact that this is really quality stuff. It’s not pity coming from anybody.”
Dillon plans to return to Evanston later this month to finish work on his album.
Watch Dillon perform with Justified Freedom
in New York City, May 2011.
Visit Dillon’s website
to buy his CD and learn more about his story.