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Dillon gets formal apology and $1.35 mil for wrongful conviction

Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed off on a measure to compensate a man who wrongfully spent 27 years in a Florida prison.  Regan McCarthy reports the governor signed bill just hours after it passed out of the Senate. 

 William Dillon spent almost three decades in a Florida prison for a murder he didn’t commit before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. Now he’s a singer song writer. He’s just released his first full length CD Black Robes and Lawyers.

And now the state has passed a claims bill awarding Dillon 50-thousand dollars a year for each of the 27 years he wrongfully spent in prison. That gives him a total of 1.35 million dollars. Governor Rick Scott formally apologized to Dillon as he signed the claims bill just hours after it passed out the legislature.

“I don’t think there’s any dollar amount that can compensate you for what you went through – being incarcerated, let along being accused.”

Scott says he’s impressed by Dillon’s optimist outlook. And House Speaker Dean Cannon echoes that thought.

“What you’ve been through no one should have to go through, and this bill will not fully compensate what you’ve lost, but we hope it does send the message that when the state does make a mistake and can correct an injustice we’re proud to be able to do that. And, I will says sir, that you showed incredible courage and class, probably better than I would have in the same circumstances, and we cannot control in life what happens to us, but you can control how you respond to it. And you responded extraordinarily well, and a good example to all of us.”

Senate President Mike Haridopolos who championed the bill says he’s glad to see the state putting actions behind its apology. He says this bill does what the state can to restore justice.

“We want to make sure that as we take on crime as we have in the last few years to bring it down to a record low, that we see justice is truly balanced and I think today’s an example of it.”

Haridopolos has been pushing Dillon’s bill since last year when it cleared his chamber, but was overlooked by the House on the last day of session.  A choked up Dillon says he thinks it’s amazing that something like this can happen, adding that he really appreciates the apology.

"The dollars and cents, they make sense for my life, but it doesn’t give back what was taken from me. But at the same time, its such a joy to be here, because my life was gone. I can’t do anything but look forward, and I’m blessed and happy to be here."

Dillon’s bill passed among questions about the fairness and validity of the claims bill process. A number of other claims bills are moving through the legislature, however unlike Dillon’s bill, those proposals aim to compensate citizens who’ve suffered an injury due to the state.


Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.