Archie Charles Williams spent more than 36 years of his life at Louisiana State Penitentiary for a crime he didn't commit until he was exonerated last March.
Now, a little more than a year later, he's making the most of his newfound freedom through his singing talent.
Archie Williams stepped out of the 19th Judicial District courthouse and into the sunshine Thursday afternoon surrounded by relatives and lawy…
Williams will be featured on the latest season of "America's Got Talent," and fans of the show got a sneak peek at his audition Friday through the show's social media accounts. The audition is the realization of a long-held dream for Williams, who said he watched the popular NBC talent show while incarcerated, with dreams of one day making it to the big stage.
"I watched 'America's Got Talent' in prison, and I would visualize myself being there," he said. "I always desired to be on a stage like this, and now I'm here. Thank God. I know it's the chance of a lifetime."
In the nearly 10 minute segment, Williams retells his story of being falsely accused for the rape and stabbing of a woman at her home in the Hundred Oaks area of Baton Rouge in 1983, then being convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life plus 80 years in prison at Angola with no chance of parole.
He was exonerated in March 2019, thanks to the help of the Innocence Project New Orleans, when improvements in evidence technology proved fingerprints taken at the scene of the crime belonged to another man — a serial rapist who went free while Williams was serving his sentence.
It was late one morning in December 1982 when a Baton Rouge housewife saw someone approaching her home in the city's Hundred Oaks neighborhood…
In the audition Williams showcases his talent with a performance of Elton John's classic "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" that left the show's four judges — including the notoriously blunt Simon Cowell — and audience in a tearful awe. Cowell even shared the footage on his Twitter account with a message mirroring the comments he left for Williams following his performance.
"Archie, I will never, ever listen to that song in the same way ever again after you sang that. It took on a whole new meaning for me," Cowell told Williams in his critique. "You're a very, very courageous person. By the way, you have a really good voice — you really, really do.
"This is an audition I will never forget for the whole of my life, Archie."
You can find out if Williams makes it onto the next round by watching his audition below, or waiting for the show's full debut on Tuesday at 7 p.m.