Sunday, November 16, 2008

Florida man to get new trial after serving 27 years for murder

After spending 27 years in prison, convicted killer Bill Dillon will get a new trial. The State Attorney's Office agreed to the move, approved by a Brevard County judge Friday, even though prosecutors think they can uphold his conviction.

"We are just exhilarated. It's a new chapter now," said Dillon's brother, Joe, of Palm Bay. "The whole family is really excited."

Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes said he decided to go along with the defense team's request for a new trial because it appeared the judge was going to approve it anyway.

Dillon, 49, who has always maintained his innocence, is getting help from The Innocence Project of Florida, an organization that uses DNA evidence to try to overturn convictions. The group has footed the bill for tests that showed Dillon's DNA was not on a bloody T-shirt that was used to convict him. The shirt did have blood from victim James Dvorak, as well as DNA from other people. Dillon was convicted in 1981 of killing Dvorak, whose beaten body was found in the palmettos along Canova Beach.

Holmes said the new DNA evidence isn't proof of Dillon's innocence. During the past 20 years, many people have handled evidence in the case and possibly left their DNA on the shirt, he said. "The DNA evidence does not establish his actual innocence," Holmes said. "We believe that the evidence [presented during the trial] proved him to be guilty." Still, he said he would not use the T-shirt during the next trial, which could begin as early as January. He also said he would not present testimony from people who testified during the original trial and later recanted. One witness, someone who placed Dillon near the murder scene, is dead. But Holmes plans to read his testimony during the new trial.

Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, said Dillon shouldn't have been convicted originally and that the state doesn't have enough to convict him during the next trial. Dillon is scheduled for a bond hearing Tuesday, and Miller hopes that the murder charge will be dropped at that time. "They clearly saw the need to grant Mr. Dillon a new trial," Miller said. "There's a viable claim of innocence."

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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