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Just over a year ago, Archie Williams was in his 37th year in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Last night he was standing on the 'America's Got Talent' stage singing his heart out, received a standing ovation and America fell in love.
In 1983, when he was just 22, Archie was convicted of attempted murder, rape and aggravated burglary of a woman in Louisiana. The woman identified him as her attacker. But from the day he was arrested, Archie maintained his innocence saying he was home asleep at the time of the assault. Despite the fact that fingerprints found at the scene were not his, and other testimony to his innocence, he was convicted.
Last night he told the show's judges:
"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. They wanted somebody to pay."
Archie was sentenced to life in prison without parole. And still, he maintained his innocence.
In the 1990's someone finally listened and his case was taken on by the Innocence Project. They fought for more than 20 years for DNA testing and fingerprint comparisons to be done to prove his innocence. Finally in March 2019, DNA fingerprint analysis proved his innocence and revealed another man, who committed other sexual assaults in the area, was responsible for the crime.
After spending 37 years in prison, the charges against Williams were dismissed and he walked out of prison.
When host Terry Crews asked him what got him through those many years in prison, Archie said that music helped him survive. He said he would watch 'America's Got Talent,' and dreamed of appearing on the show.
Last night, that dream came true. He stepped on stage and sang Elton John's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me,' and all the judges; Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara, Howie Mandel and Simon Cowell were just wowed. In a unanimous vote from the judges Archie earned a spot in the next round of competition.
But that wasn't all, Judge Simon Cowell was so moved by Archie's performance, he went a step further saying"
"Archie's performance is probably the single most important one in the history of America's Got Talent. What happened to Archie is tragic. While Archie's voice is extraordinary, unfortunately his experience of being sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit is much more common than most people realize. There are thousands of innocent people in jails and prisons. I'm honored to become an Ambassador for the Innocence Project and what to do what I can to help more people like Archie.
Archie's story is one of courage and hope -- and I hope that by knowing more about his story and the Innocence Project, it will encourage more people to support the incredible work they do. These guys don't just talk, they do something about it. The Innocence Project doesn't just change people's lives, they save people's lives. For them to have stuck with Archie's case for over 20 years is remarkable. "
It's safe to say that Archie has already become a fan favorite and it'll be amazing to see how the rest of his story plays out.