Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dillon to seek pay for time in prison

Lawyers plan to fight for $1.35M


Attorneys for William Dillon insist the 49-year-old is entitled to compensation from the state, despite the State Attorney's Office not proclaiming his innocence.

Dillon was convicted in 1981 for the murder of James Dvorak and sentenced to life in prison.

He always maintained his innocence, and last month was granted a new trial by Circuit Judge David Dugan, based on new DNA evidence that seemed to clear him of the crime.

Prosecutors said they would go forward with a new trial, but changed their minds on Wednesday.

While state law entitles the wrongfully incarcerated to $50,000 for every year, Dillon's attorneys anticipate having to fight for the money, since prosecutors have not said the Satellite Beach man was innocent. At $50,000 for 27 years, the total amount would be $1.35 million.

"We're going to send Bill in the right direction with some great attorneys," said lawyer Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida. "Bill absolutely qualifies, and we're going to get that rolling right away."

While the state dropped charges, prosecutors stopped short of declaring Dillon innocent of murder.

In a news release issued Wednesday, the State Attorney's Office said the reasoning behind dropping the charges was the lack of remaining witnesses.

"A major function of our jury system is the evaluation of witnesses as they testify in the trial setting. It is the presentation of live testimony that the jury evaluates and weighs," the release says.

"Unfortunately, as a result of nine witnesses now being deceased, and another witness who suffers medical issues that will substantially impair (the) ability to testify, the trial would primarily consist of a reading of prior trial testimony. The jury would have no opportunity to evaluate the actual witnesses to the events that occurred 27 years ago."

Dillon was convicted in part because of the fraudulent testimony of a disgraced dog handler, who died earlier this year; a witness who was having sex with the lead investigator; a jailhouse snitch whose charges were dropped after he testified for the prosecution; and a bloody T-shirt prosecutors said was worn by the killer.

DNA testing done this summer excluded Dillon from having worn the shirt.

Even though there are laws to protect counties from being sued, Miller said it does not protect Brevard County in this instance.

"In this case, there is an extra-bad intent, extra maliciousness that we believe not only warrants the filing of the suit, but will allow us to win," Miller said.

Miller said the public knows Dillon is innocent.

"If we're going to rely on when a prosecutor says someone is innocent, then no one would ever be innocent," Miller said. "We expect them to try and diminish the quality of what's happened here."

Dillon said he has no intention of leaving his part-time job at a local auto-parts store.

"The man was good enough to give me a job," he said after learning the state dropped all charges.

Dillon said he has not thought much about compensation.

"I'm just blessed to be sitting here," he said. "Whatever else there is, there is."

Contact Torres at 242-3649 or

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