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See What Archie Williams Is Doing After His Wrongful Conviction and AGT Success

The Louisiana singer who who spent decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit has one of the most powerful stories told on AGT.

By Jax Miller

Many contestants have come to America’s Got Talent with moving stories, many from which have been used to draw on their inspiration and talent. Such was the case for singer Archie Williams, who found music as the path to freedom while serving life behind bars for another man’s crimes.

A Look Back at Archie Williams' Time on AGT

How to Watch

Watch the Season 19 premiere of America’s Got Talent Tuesday, May 28 at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

For his 2020 AGT Audition, Baton Rouge-born singer Archie Williams delivered an “unforgettable” rendition of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” moving the Season 15 Judges and audience members to tears. 

Archie Williams performs on the Americas Got Talent stage

Judge Simon Cowell recently referred to the performance as one of the most memorable auditions in AGT history.

“This is an audition I will never forget for the whole of my life, Archie,” Cowell told Williams.

RELATED: Simon Cowell Says Niall Horan Becoming a Coach on The Voice Is a "Weird, Full Circle-y Thing"

Williams received all yes votes from the Judges, allowing him to continue with the AGT competition. He advanced into the finals with songs such as The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”  

Williams also gave an emotional cover of Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings,” dedicated to his daughter, whom he only learned about while serving life in prison.

Spoken word poet Brandon Leake was eventually crowned the Season 15 winner, but Williams wasn’t finished yet. In January 2023, he returned for America’s Got Talent: All-Stars, singing the 1972 Bill Withers hit “Ain’t No Sunshine” and incorporating some of his own words.

“When I was 12 years old, I met the love of my life, and her name was music,” Williams spoke as a piano played. “They tried to take away my life, but I wouldn’t let them take away my sound.”

Archie Williams’ Conviction and Release

In 1982, a 30-year-old housewife was sexually assaulted and brutally stabbed in her Baton Rouge home and left for dead. Then 22-year-old Williams was arrested weeks later for aggravated rape, attempted first-degree murder, and burglary, he explained to AGT: All-Stars.

“I was walking down the streets one night in 1982, and the police just threw down and arrested me for a crime someone else committed,” Williams told the Judges.

The victim repeatedly misidentified Williams as her attacker, though Williams said he was home asleep at the time, according to CNN. Williams always maintained his innocence.

“Being a poor Black kid, I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana,” Williams said in his AGT audition.

Ultimately, Williams was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to life plus 80 years without the possibility of parole at Louisiana State Penitentiary (infamously known as “Angola”).

Archie Williams performs on the Americas Got Talent stage

The Innocence Project stepped in in the mid-1990s, fighting to have Williams’ fingerprints submitted to an F.B.I. database. It took 24 years to get approval for the tests, though the results came back in a matter of hours, clearing Williams of the crimes in March 2019.

A serial rapist named Stephen Forbes was eventually linked to the crime.

Seven days after the test results came back, Williams’ convictions were overturned, and he was released from the state penitentiary after serving 36 years in prison.

“When I first came to AGT, I was so nervous because I used to watch America’s Got Talent in prison, and I would always visualize myself being there,” he told AGT: All-Stars. “Many times, when I was in prison, I felt like giving up. Music was what really got me through to freedom."

What Is Archie Williams Doing Now?

Williams left a lasting impact on AGT and AGT: All-Stars. Sir Elton John said he was “moved to tears” by Williams’ AGT audition, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, even created a video message for Williams, saying she was “so moved” by his story and talent.

After hearing Williams cover his music, Stevie Wonder also decided to write a song for Williams.

Williams doesn’t have much of a footprint on social media, though it appears he keeps active in criminal justice reform and activism. As quoted by the Innocence Project New Orleans, “There are many innocent people in Angola  — guys who have served more than 50 years.”

Though Williams was “happy” in light of his 2019 release, he said, “I’m not free until they are free.”

Williams’ AGT impact even moved Judge Cowell to become an ambassador for The Innocence Project. In a statement with the organization, Cowell called Williams’ performance “probably the single most important one in the history of America’s Got Talent.”

“While Archie’s voice is extraordinary, unfortunately, his experience of being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit is much more common than most people realize,” Cowell stated, in part. “This has really opened my eyes, my family’s eyes, and my friends’ eyes to this.”

Williams is reportedly part of the Black Lives Matter movement, and we hope music continues to lead him in his journey. 

Watch new episodes of America’s Got Talent Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and the following day on Peacock.

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