Monday, December 15, 2008

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Dillon's long wait for new trial ends

Family rejoices; January retrial likely

BY JOHN A. TORRES • FLORIDA TODAY • November 15, 2008

Nearly 28 years after first asking for a new trial, William Dillon is getting one.

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Dillon, who was convicted of murder for the 1981 slaying of James Dvorak of Indian Harbour Beach, likely will be retried in January.

The state announced Friday it would stop fighting Dillon's motion for a new trial based on DNA evidence his lawyers say clears him.

A bond hearing on Tuesday potentially could see Dillon spend the next few weeks leading to his trial reunited with his family in Satellite Beach. For now, he remains at the Brevard County jail.

"We knew 28 years ago that our brother would find justice one day, and we never gave up hope," said Dillon's brother, Joe, after the hearing. "We want our brother to come home and live life like you're supposed to live -- and not in an 8-by-6 cell."

Dillon, wearing red inmate garb and shackled at the wrists and ankles, turned and smiled at his parents and other family members after Circuit Judge David Dugan announced he was granting the motion for a new trial.

The state's decision comes only a few days before Dillon's lawyer -- Assistant Public Defender Mike Pirolo -- threatened to put former and present prosecutors on the stand to prove what he calls massive corruption and conspiracy within the State Attorney's Office.

Pirolo claims that prosecutors colluded with a fraudulent dog handler -- John Preston -- to pin convictions on innocent people, including Wilton Dedge and Juan Ramos.

Preston testified against Dillon as well, after claiming his dog identified Dillon as being tied to a bloody yellow T-shirt that was a key piece of evidence in the case.

Immediately after being convicted in 1981, Dillon asked for a new trial on the grounds that his then-girlfriend -- Donna Parrish -- slept with the lead homicide investigator in the case before testifying against Dillon.

She then recanted her testimony, but Judge Stanley Wolfman denied Dillon's motion for a new trial.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors claimed the killer must have worn the T-shirt.

DNA tests this summer excluded Dillon from wearing the shirt, as sweat stains revealed DNA from an unidentified person.

The Innocence Project of Florida assisted throughout the process in getting the court to release the evidence for DNA testing.

"There has been fraud and collusion within the state attorney's office, and we are not backing away even if they end up dropping this case," Pirolo said, adding that he planned to forward all information on this case to Gov. Charlie Crist. "There are things the state attorney is going to have to answer to."

Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes said the state agreed to the new trial only in order to save the time and resources.

He said there were indications that Dugan was going to award the new trial anyway.

Holmes added he would indeed proceed with a new trial against Dillon, saying there was still plenty of evidence -- including the possibility of calling Parrish back up to the stand.

"She is available and she reaffirms that he is the murderer," Holmes said outside the courtroom. "She said Dillon admitted the murder to her and showed her the crime scene."

The fact that the state planned to move forward with a new trial, stunned attorneys working with the Innocence Project of Florida.

"This case is indicative of the culture of corruption in Brevard County," Legal Director David Menschel said. "They were more concerned with getting a conviction than convicting the right person. Once they identified a suspect, they were willing to do anything -- even manufacture evidence -- in order to win."

The Innocence Project has joined Pirolo in calling on Crist to look into this case and possible corruption within the state attorney's office.

Contact Torres at 242-3649 or jtorres@floridatoday.com.



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