A man who served 37 years in prison after wrongfully being convicted of rape has become the current frontrunner in the 15th season of America’s Got Talent.
Archie Williams dazzled the judges on Tuesday’s premiere episode with his rendition of Elton John‘s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” which also brought the audience to its feet.
Williams shared he was freed from prison after a DNA test cleared his name of the 1982 crime. He shared that, while in prison, the show prevented him from falling into despair.
“I watched America’s Got Talent in prison and I would visualize myself there,” Williams explained. “I always desired to be on a stage like this, and now I’m here.”
Williams also candidly spoke about the crime he was wrongly convicted of, saying that a 30-year-old white woman was assaulted and stabbed in her home. She wrongfully identified him as her rapist.
However, Williams was asleep at the time of the incident but, “being a poor black kid, I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana,” he lamented.
Despite police not finding matching fingerprints at the scene and Williams having three witnesses testify on his behalf with an alibi, “[the state] wanted somebody to pay” and he was incarcerated with a life sentence of 80 years without parole or probation.
Now, he wants to turn his life around by moving forward and fully realizing his dream.
At the end of his soulful performance, all four judges enthusiastically sent him through to the next round.
It also moved Sir Elton John to tears when he watched Williams’ performance, with the singer tweeting on Tuesday, “The courage and forgiveness shown by him is truly inspiring.”
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.
By Megan Stone
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