Archie Williams auditioned for the new season of “America’s Got Talent,” one year after he was freed from prison after serving 36 years for a rape he didn’t commit.
During Tuesday night’s episode of America’s Got Talent on (May 26), 59-year-old Williams shared his breathtaking singing talents with the world.
Singing an emotional rendition of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” Williams stunned viewers and judges alike with his voice and his story.
In 1983, Williams was convicted of a rape he didn’t commit, despite testimonies to prove his innocence alongside forensic evidence. He was convicted at age 22 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or probation.
“I couldn’t believe it was really happening,” Williams shared, according to People. “I knew I was innocent. I didn’t commit a crime. But being a poor Black kid, I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana.”
Williams said that being in Angola State Prison he had a choice to either be strong or weak knowing that his days would turn into weeks, into months, into years and into decades.
“How did you get through?” AGT host Terry Crews asked.
“Freedom is of the mind,” Williams responded. “I went to prison but I never let my mind go to prison.”
After his case was taken on by the Innocence Project in the 1990s, the new technology would force another fingerprint analysis to be done on his case last year resulting in his exoneration.
On March 21, 2019, Williams walked out of the 19th Judicial District Courthouse in Baton Rouge.
Following his emotional America’s Got Talent performance, Williams earned a unanimous spot to the next round and standing ovation.
“Archie’s performance is probably the single most important one in the history of America’s Got Talent,” said AGT judge Simon Cowell in a press release.
Later continuing, “Archie’s story is one of courage and hope — and I hope that by knowing more about his story and the Innocence Project, it will encourage more people to support the incredible work they do. These guys don’t just talk; they actually do something about it. The Innocence Project doesn’t just change people’s lives, they save people’s lives. For them to have stuck with Archie’s case for over 20 years is remarkable.”
Watch the America’s Got Talent performance below: