Almost one year after being exonerated and freed from prison after serving nearly 37 years for a crime he didn't commit, singer Archie Williams brought his vocal talents to the stage in the America's Got Talent season premiere. After he was done, there wasn't a dry eye among the panel of judges.
Williams, 59, shared his story with the AGT cameras before taking the stage and explained how, when he was 22 years old, he was arrested for raping and stabbing a woman in Louisiana.
"I knew I was innocent, I didn't commit a crime. But being a poor black kid, I didn't have the ability to fight the state of Louisiana," Williams said, explaining that, despite three witnesses testifying that he was at home the night of the crime, and that his fingerprints didn't match those found at the scene, he was still prosecuted and convicted. "They wanted somebody to pay."
Williams was sent to Louisiana State Penitentiary, an infamously brutal prison known as Angola, where Williams said, "You had the choice to be either strong or weak, because you will be tried, and tested."
"Days turned into weeks, into months, into years and into decades. It's like a nightmare," he explained to AGT host Terry Crews as the pair spoke backstage, adding that he passed the time and dealt with the pain by singing while behind bars. "Freedom is of the mind. I went to prison but I never let my mind go to prison."
When asked how he feels now that he's been out of jail, Williams admitted it's "a feeling I'm still trying to grasp, that I'm still trying to digest."
"I watched America's Got Talent while in prison, and I would visualize myself being there," Williams said. "I always desired to be on a stage like this, and now I'm here. Thank God."
Standing before the judges and the crowd in the AGT theater, Williams wasted no time stunning everyone with his formidable voice.