NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — A man who spent nearly four decades in prison for a home invasion rape he didn't commit recently performed at Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater and his heart finally felt free.
For most singers, performing at the Apollo is a special time and that is certainly the case for Archie Williams.
"I was incarcerated in the worstest prison on this globe," the 56-year-old Louisiana native told WCBS 880's Mike Sugerman in this week's Sweet Spot.
When he was 22 years old, Williams was convicted based on flawed evidence and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
A new judge took over the case last year and Williams was finally exonerated.
"The evidence against him even then was flimsy," said Vanessa Potnik who is with the Innocence Project, the non-profit that takes on such cases and has been working with Williams since 1996. "After decades of fighting, within a matter of hours, the fingerprints were matched to a serial assailant who had committed serial crimes in the area right around the time and Archie's innocence was finally demonstrated."
Music got him through those long, hellish years at Angola prison and just a few months after his new life began, a lifelong dream was also realized.
"When I was a baby I watched Apollo and I always had the desire to come here, I always had a vision that I would be here one day and it came true," Williams said when he recently competed at the Apollo's famed Amateur Night Contest.
"It means a lot to be a part of this moment," said Serenity, his backup singer that night who typically works with big names like Stevie Wonder. "I'm used to singing with superstars and everyone who just has been singing and have had a great life all their lives but that isn't the case for him. When we sing together, we're singing from a different place, and that means the world to me."
While he didn't win, Williams said of the experience, "It's amazing, it's the most exciting part of my life."
He now wants to help others who have been wrongfully incarcerated.
"I want to say to all of those innocent incarcerated just keep the faith and just hang in there and your vision will come true," Williams said.