Man Blows Away Judges on 'AGT' After Spending 37 Years in Jail for Crime He Didn't Commit

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Many people who come to talent-based shows have incredible stories that help boost their ratings, but this week, a new contender came in and stole the show.

On Tuesday, viewers got to meet Archie Williams on America’s Got Talent. Williams has a heartbreaking story and a moving voice to go with it, and even stoic judge Simon Cowell was left changed.

“This is Archie Williams,” Cowell posted on Instagram after the episode. “I will never forget this audition for the rest of my life. And I’ll never listen to this song in the same way ever again.”

Williams has spent a long time paying for someone else’s crimes. A young man in 1983, he was pinned for the rape and murder of a 30-year-old white woman.

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There was no evidence to support his conviction. In fact, there was evidence to the contrary. He had alibis vouching for him. The fingerprints on the scene didn’t match his.

But someone had to pay, and he was saddled with the crime and sent to prison for life without parole or probation.

“I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Williams said in his AGT interview. “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.”

But in 2019 he was finally freed, thanks to the work of the Innocence Project, which was able to prove the real culprit was a serial rapist and Williams was not to blame.

When Williams took the stage in front of the judges, they asked him to talk a bit about himself, and with his first two sentences, he had the entire audience’s attention.

“I was just incarcerated for 37 years for somebody else’s crime,” he said. “DNA freed me.”

He explained that while he was physically in jail, he kept his mind out of jail by using his voice.

“When you’re faced with dark times, what I would do is I would pray and sing,” he explained. “This is how I got peace.”

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“I watched ‘America’s Got Talent’ in prison and I would visualize myself getting there. I always desired to be on a stage like this and now I’m here. Thank God. I know it’s my chance of a lifetime.”

Now 59, Williams performed Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and the emotion came through beautifully. The judges voted “yes” unanimously.

“I would say we have about 3,500 yeses here,” Cowell added as the crowd cheered.

“What happened to Archie is tragic,” Cowell posted on Instagram. “While his voice is extraordinary, unfortunately his experience of being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit is more common than people realize.”

“I’m honored to become an Ambassador for the @innocenceproject and want to do what I can to help more people like Archie. @archiewilliamsofficial’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 actually do something about it. The Innocence Project doesn’t just change people’s lives, they save people’s lives.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking