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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Haridopolos touts claims bill for man wrongfully imprisoned 27 years



William Dillon was 21 when he was arrested for a murder and rape he did not commit.

He spent 27 years in seven different prisons before he was released on Nov. 18, 2008, when a DNA test cleared him of the crime.

These days Dillon, 52, lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., and spends his time practicing the guitar for a new album and waiting for the Florida Legislature to pass a relief bill that would pay him $810,000 for his wrongful conviction.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos is fast-tracking claims for Dillon (SB 2) and Eric Brody, a man paralyzed when a Broward County Sheriff's deputy crashed into him 13 years ago, this session. The House did not take up the bills in the waning hours of session after the Senate shut down a wide-ranging House deregulation bill.

Both will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, where they are expected to pass. During the last moments of the 2011 session, when Haridopolos called members back into session, senators took a unanimous, symbolic vote on Brody's and Dillon's claims as a promise to take up their causes in 2012. 

"We think this is a very simple bill," Haridopolos said in a Tuesday news conference. "It's about justice."

Dillon hoped the House would at least look at his bill this time. The House sponsor is Rep. Steve Crisafulli, who, like Haridopolos, is a Republican from Merritt Island.

"I know there's a million problems that Florida has and they have to deal with," he said, "but it's been 30 years now, so I'm hoping for some sort of finality here so I can move on."

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 4:28pm]


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