Most likely, it was confiscated by police and left to rot in an evidence room. This was in the late 1970s, and the joint's true worth was not then apparent. The person in whose possession it was found, the teenaged Bill Dillon, certainly didn't know it. Though history is unclear on this point, he most likely responded to the joint's confiscation and his concurrent arrest with the same stoicism with which most 1970s teenagers greeted these mundane run-ins with law enforcement.
His small-time drug bust was far from his mind in 1981, when Dillon was accused of murdering a man on Canova Beach, in Brevard County.
He hadn't killed anybody, and plenty of people knew it. According to CNN, the witnesses who testified against Dillon recanted not long after his trial, but it didn't matter. Dillon spent almost 30 years in prison before Project Innocence unearthed the DNA evidence that cleared his name. In all, he spent 27 years in prison -- more time than anybody ever cleared by Project Innocence.
Florida feels bad for wrongful convictions and pays ex-inmates $50,000 for every year they spend in prison for crimes of which they're later acquitted. Unless, that is, the inmate in question has a prior felony record. Which, thanks to the United States' formerly draconian marijuana laws, Dillon did.
So that joint cost him $50,000 times 27 years, which is $1.35 million. He probably won't see a dime of it.
Happily, he's got a budding musical career. Dude leaned to sing rather well in the pokey, and now he's releasing a record of what sounds like hard-bitten, autobiographical songs, which he recorded with the help of Jim Tullio -- a Grammy-winning producer who knows from hard-bitten. (He's worked with Rick Danko and Mavis Staples, among many, many others.) Dillon's first single comes out next month on iTunes. It's called "Black Robes and Lawyers," and you oughta buy it. It's a very fine song, and Dillon could use the money.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.