'America's Got Talent' Season 15: Singer Archie Williams spent 37 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit
Williams used his soulful voice to share the pain and struggle he endured being accused of rape by a white woman, only to be proven innocent thanks to modern DNA technology
Archie Williams, a 58-year-old contestant on Season 15 of 'America's Got Talent' revealed during the premiere that he spent 37 years in prison after being wrongfully accused of rape. In 1982, Williams was arrested and imprisoned in a Louisiana jail the next year after he was accused of rape by an unnamed white woman. After being convicted of attempted murder, aggravated rape and aggravated burglary, and despite maintaining his innocence, Williams was sentenced to life in prison.
In his interview before he performed on AGT, Williams stated that even though there was no evidence that placed him at the scene of the crime, he did not have the resources to fight his case. "As a poor black kid, I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana," he shared, revealing the system failed him in more ways than one.
Williams also shared that he made it through the ordeal hoping that he would be free one day and live his dreams, one of which was to compete on AGT. For him, singing was "how (he) got peace." Speaking about his journey on stage, the crooner said, "I watched 'America's Got Talent' in prison and I would visualize myself there... I always desired to be on a stage like this, and now I’m here." The Innocence Project took on Williams' case in the '90s, and thanks to new technology that allowed his fingerprints to be analyzed again, he was finally proven innocent and was freed in 2019.
As he sang a heartfelt, gut-wrenching rendition of 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me', the weight of what he has been through for nearly four decades hits every listener and it was difficult for anyone to maintain their composure. He received a standing ovation from the whole auditorium, four yeses, and the love of America.
Judge Simon Cowell stated he would "never, ever listen to that song the same way", adding, "This is an audition I will never forget for the whole of my life, Archie," and commending Williams on his stunning voice. A new addition to the show, judge Sofia Vergara said, "Even though you did 37 years, it's 37 years that didn't break you. I can picture you watching this show, hoping, hoping, holding to something and now you're here, and we love you."