America’s Got Talent is known for its jaw-dropping acts and emotional stories, and the season 15 premiere promises to deliver both. One of the premiere night’s contestants, Archie Williams, was wrongfully convicted and spent 37 in prison before his release in 2019.
According to the New York Times, Williams went to Louisiana State Penitentiary after being wrongly convicted of raping and stabbing a Baton Rouge woman. He was sent to prison on December 9, 1982; the man believed to have committed the crime for which Williams served time was Stephen Forbes. Forbes, a serial rapist, died in prison in 1996.
Archie Williams Was Sent to Prison Even Though His Fingerprints Didn’t Match the Ones at the Crime Scene
According to the New York Times, it was known during Williams’ trial that his fingerprints did not match those found at the scene of the crime. Furthermore, multiple people testified that Williams was at home when the woman was attacked. Nevertheless, the victim identified Williams as her rapist after picking him from a line-up, and he was ultimately found guilty of the crime he did not commit.
36 years later, a DNA test of the fingerprints found at the crime scene confirmed that they did not belong to Williams, and he was cleared hours later. His innocence proven, lawyer Vanessa Potkin from the Innocence Project said in a statement “It was incredibly frustrating to know that there was technology out there that would lead to the truth, that would give him his innocence — and we were blocked from it.”
Williams told AGT that when he was arrested, “I knew I was innocent, I didn’t commit a crime. But being a poor black kid, I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana.”
AGT host Terry Crews asked Williams how it felt to finally be free. His response? “It’s a feeling I’m still trying to grab. I’m still trying to digest the freedom that I have right now.”
For His ‘AGT’ Audition, Archie Williams Sang ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’
When Williams took the stage for his audition and Simon Cowell asked him to introduce himself, he said “I was just incarcerated for 37 years for somebody else’s crime. DNA freed me.” Unsurprisingly, the judges were shocked by this information and Cowell apologized to him for having to go through that.
From the moment Williams started singing, his impressive voice was packed with emotion, and the judges sat in silence taking each moment of the performance in. He, of course, received a standing ovation from the tear-filled audition as he sang his final note.
After his performance, Howie Mandel address Williams. He said “37 years, I can’t imagine. They took a life away from you. But if there’s anything that can be given to you, it is – and I feel it right now – the love that you are getting.” Mandel pointed to the audience behind him, who erupted into applause once more.
When asked how he got through all those years incarcerated, Williams said “Freedom is of the mind. I went to prison but I never let my mind go to prison.” Faced with dark times, Williams said “I would pray and sing” to “get peace.” He also said “I used to watch ‘America’s Got Talent’ in prison and I would visualize myself being there,” calling his audition his “chance of a lifetime.”
New episodes of America’s Got Talent season 15 air on Tuesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.