Not forgiven, not forgotten
Thirty years after being falsely convicted of murder, and three years after being exonerated, William Dillon is still seeking justice
Published: August 11, 2011
A little more than halfway through his time in prison, however, Dillon says he had accepted his fate: “If I never get out of here, if I never see anything, then so be it.”
But after learning about Wilton Dedge, another Brevard County man (and also one of Harass II’s subjects) who won his freedom in 2004 after DNA testing cleared him of rape, Dillon applied in 2007 to have the evidence in his case tested. To his surprise, Brevard County Circuit Judge David Dugan accepted the motion. After hearing the news, the Florida chapter of the Innocence Project, an organization that evaluates wrongful incarceration claims based on DNA evidence, got involved. In conjunction with Dillon’s public defender, the group’s attorneys requested everything from strands of hair to soil samples, but the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office claimed that practically everything had been lost. Luckily for Dillon, a key piece of evidence – the bloody T-shirt – had been left with the court clerk’s office.
In July 2008 DNA testing confirmed that Dillon could not have worn the shirt. In November of that year he was released on bond, but the county, contending that the testing results did not necessarily exonerate him, filed for a retrial. Yet less than a month later, the state dropped its charges, arguing that too many of the witnesses in the original trial had since died.
Dillon’s life after prison was far from glamorous – he performed heavy labor for an auto parts company and lived with his brother Joe, who says Dillon would keep to himself in his room, sleep and wake at the exact same time daily, and would not eat until he was served a meal. “He would pretty much wait for us to tell him it was OK to do something,” Joe says.
Dillon came out of his shell in March 2009, when he traveled to Houston to attend an Innocence Project conference. There Dillon met Ellen Moscovitz, who at that time was the head of a DNA-testing company. The two fell in love, and Dillon promptly moved to Cincinnati with Moscovitz, who encouraged him to pursue music as a career – while in prison, Dillon learned to play guitar and wrote numerous songs. He returned to Florida on Nov. 2, 2009, for his compensation hearing before the Florida state legislature. It was then that Roger Dale Chapman, who had briefly shared a jail holding cell with Dillon, told legislators that he was coerced by police to fabricate his original testimony, in which Dillon confessed to him of murdering Dvorak.
The following day, Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker declared that his office was reopening the investigation.
Dillon and Moscovitz had since left Ohio and were living in Chapel Hill, N.C. On the evening of Nov. 3, 2010, two detectives from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office arrived at their front door. Moscovitz says that because the detectives “acted like they were just trying to get him paid by the legislators,” they let them come inside. But what followed, according to the couple, were allegations that there was photographic evidence of Dillon’s presence near the Pelican that night, despite his contention that he was in Cocoa Beach. In June, the Brevard daily newspaper Florida Today reported the county’s investigators believed that Dillon “may have robbed someone the night of the killing or even taken money from the dead or dying Dvorak.”
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