Today the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court granted William
Dillon a new trial based on DNA evidence which demonstrates Dillon's actual
innocence of the 1981 murder of James Dvorak in Canova Beach Florida.
Dillon's 27 years equals the longest time served by any of the 223 DNA
exonerees nationwide. He is the third man to be exonerated in Brevard Countyin recent years.
Mr. Dillon, who has always maintained his innocence, was
convicted on the basis of unreliable and false evidence including: subsequently
recanted testimony of a star witness who was threatened by and having sex with
the State's lead investigator; fraudulent scientific testimony of a dog
handler; testimony of a jailhouse snitch whose pending rape charge was
dismissed after fingering Dillon; and a mistaken eyewitness identification by a
man legally blind in one eye.
"This case is indicative of the culture of corruption
in Brevard County," said David Menschel, Legal
Director of the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF). "They were more
concerned with getting a conviction than convicting the right person. Once they
identified a suspect, they were willing to do anything – even manufacture
evidence – in order to win."
Dillon's case is particularly troubling because it involved
the now-discredited testimony of dog handler John Preston, a man who has been
exposed as a fraud by both courts and the national media. But as Melissa
Montle, Staff Attorney with the IPF explained, "The only way the dog could
do what Preston purported it could do is if someone from the inside was feeding
Preston the information."
Both Wilton Dedge and Juan Ramos were also wrongfully convicted
on the basis of Preston's testimony. Seth
Miller, Executive Director of the IPF, called for an investigation into the
conduct of the Brevard County State Attorney's Office and Sheriff's Office as
well as a comprehensive review of the hundreds of cases in which John Preston
testified: "Governor Crist needs to take a hard look at what's been going
on in Brevard County and restore public confidence in Florida's criminal
justice system. Our organization would be happy to assist the Governor in these
efforts." [Bobbi Madonna]