William Dillon stood before a Tropicana Field crowd for the game against the Cleveland Indians wearing his Not Guilty T-shirt, stepped up to the mike and slowly sang of the land of the free and the home of the brave.
It was quite an experience for the 52-year-old man who had spent more than half his life locked away for a crime he didn't commit.
Columnist Sue Carlton told his story on the front page of Tuesday's Tampa Bay Times:
In 1981, he was 21 and living in Brevard County when he found himself arrested, tried and convicted of killing a man named James Dvorak.
As it turned out, a dog handler with dog scent evidence against him was discredited. A witness recanted and said she had sex with the lead investigator. And a jail informant who said Dillon confessed had pending charges dropped. But still, the jury had said guilty. Dillon went to prison.
Only when DNA testing became more prevalent did he get a valuable ally on his side: the Innocence Project. After testing proved he was innocent, he was released in 2008. This year, the governor signed a bill for $1.35 million in compensation.
Dillon, who lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., was singing at the Rays game because someone from the Innocence Project has a neighbor who works for the Rays. He was invited to sing because the Rays wanted to show their support -- and because he could sing.