AGT candidate celebrates freedom after spending 36 years in prison for wrongful conviction

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America’s Got Talent candidate who wowed judges with Elton John’s emotional performance “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” said he wanted to “make up for all the lost years” of his life after serving more than 36 years. years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Archie Williams, 59, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shared his heartbreaking story in Tuesday night’s episode of the competition series, explaining that he had been unjustly convicted of rape and attempted murder. He spent more than three decades in prison before his release in March 2019 after DNA evidence wiped out his name.

“I don’t think you can explain it, the fullness of freedom,” he told Natalie Morales on Wednesday. “I don’t think words can explain the fullness of freedom. “

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Unforgettable: Archie Williams, 59, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, performed an emotional rendition of Elton John `` Don't let the sun set on me '' Tuesday America's Got Talent

Unforgettable: Archie Williams, 59, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, performed an emotional rendition of Elton John’s ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ on America’s Got Talent on Tuesday

Heartbreaking: Before his performance, the singer explained that he was only 22 years old when he was unjustly convicted of rape and attempted murder of a white woman in 1982

Heartbreaking: Prior to his performance, the singer explained that he was only 22 years old when he was unjustly convicted of rape and attempted murder of a white woman in 1982

Amazing: Williams, who spent 36 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, told Natalie Morales today that he wanted to `` make up for all the lost years ''

Amazing: Williams, who spent 36 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, told Natalie Morales today that he wanted to “make up for all the lost years”

Prior to his performance, Williams revealed that he used to watch America’s Got Talent while he was in prison, saying he would “visualize” himself there.

When he went on stage, he described in detail the injustice he suffered when he was arrested at the age of 22.

“On the morning of December 9, 1982, a 30-year-old white woman was raped and stabbed in her home. I was arrested on January 4. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. I knew I was innocent, “he recalls.

“I have not committed any crime. But being a poor black child, I did not have the economic capacity to fight the state of Louisiana, “he said. “At the trial, none of the fingerprints at the scene matched mine.

“Three people said I was at home, but they wanted someone to pay. I was sentenced to life and 80 years without the possibility of parole or probation. “

Lost Years: The Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted prisoners, began work on the Williams case in the 1990s, but was not released until last year (photo)

Lost Years: The Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted prisoners, began work on the Williams case in the 1990s, but was not released until last year (photo)

Family: Upon his release, he learned that he had a daughter he did not know.

Family: When he was released, he learned that he had a daughter he did not know. “It’s just the deepest thing in my life right now,” he said.

Objective: Williams revealed he was watching America's Got Talent while in prison, saying he would `` visualize '' himself on stage

Objective: Williams revealed he was watching America’s Got Talent while in prison, saying he would “visualize” himself on stage

The Innocence Project, which works to free wrongfully convicted prisoners, began work on the Williams case in the 1990s, but was not released until last year.

After new evidence linked another man to the crime, he was released on March 21, 2019, after being incarcerated for 36 years. When he was released, he learned that he had a daughter he did not know.

“Think of her spending all these years without me,” he said to Morales as his eyes filled with tears. “It’s just the deepest thing in my life right now.”

Williams is now focused on his future and his flourishing singing career.

“I want to make up for all the lost years,” he said. “And, you know, I want to have a career in singing with my nieces and nephews that I have. We are just singers. ‘

Williams told NPR in November that he had endured life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary – nicknamed “the Alcatraz of the South” – in a group with other detainees, saying it was the first place where he sang gospel music.

Success: in November, he sang at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, taking third place in the weekly Amateur Night theater competition

Success: in November, he sang at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, taking third place in the weekly Amateur Night theater competition

Plans:

Plans: “I want a career in singing with my nieces and nephews that I have. We’re just singers, “Williams told Morales

Feeling Love: Williams won millions of new fans when his unforgettable performance aired in Tuesday's America's Got Talent episode

Feel Love: Williams won millions of new fans when his unforgettable performance aired in Tuesday’s America’s Got Talent episode

“It was like a new birth there,” he recalls.

In November, he sang at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, taking third place in the theater’s weekly Amateur Night competition.

Williams gained millions of new fans when his unforgettable performance of “Don’t let the sun go down on me” aired Tuesday in the America’s Got Talent episode.

“Freedom is on the mind,” he told AGT host Terry Crews. “I went to jail, but I never let my mind go to jail.”

His emotional rendition of the song earned him a standing ovation and even a cry from Elton John, who tweeted that he was “moved to tears” when he heard Williams sing his song.

Touched: Elton John tweeted that he was `` moved to tears '' when he heard the story of Williams and saw his performance

Touched: Elton John tweeted that he was “moved to tears” when he heard the story of Williams and saw his performance

Fans: Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell (from left to right) joined the crowd to give Williams a standing ovation

Fans: Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell (from left to right) joined the crowd to give Williams a standing ovation

Using his platform: Cowell revealed on Tuesday that he was so moved by the story of Williams that he became an ambassador for the Innocence project to help others who are wrongfully imprisoned

Using his platform: Cowell revealed on Tuesday that he was so moved by the story of Williams that he became an ambassador for the Innocence project to help others who are wrongfully imprisoned

Simon Cowell was also blown away by Williams’ story and performance, sharing on Twitter that he will never forget him.

Judge AGT and record record 60-year-old shared a video of the moment, writing, “This is Archie Williams. I will never forget this audition for the rest of my life. And I will never listen to this song again the same way. “

Cowell revealed on Tuesday that he was so moved by the story of Williams that he became an ambassador for the Innocence project to help others who are wrongfully imprisoned.

“Archie’s performance is probably the most significant in America’s Got Talent history,” he said in a statement to the organization.

“What happened to Archie is tragic. Although Archie’s voice is extraordinary, unfortunately, his experience of being sent to prison for a crime he did not commit is much more common than most people think.

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