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NC exoneree Darryl Hunt to reach settlement with city officials

Posted: February 8, 2007

Attorneys for Darryl Hunt, who was exonerated in 2004 after serving more than 18 years for a murder he didn’t commit in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, have announced that Hunt will not file a civil rights suit against the city.

Attorneys said more information will be released Feb. 19th, and that a great deal of information on the case is still sealed in a 9,000-page non-public report produced over the last year by a panel investigating the police department’s conduct in the case.

"There are some matters that need to be finalized regarding a settlement," said Hunt's attorney, Mark Rabil, and Larry Little, an attorney and a former city alderman who has been a longtime adviser to Hunt.
Read the full story. (Winston-Salem Journal, 02/08/07)
DNA testing on biological evidence collected from the crime scene proved Hunt's innocence as early as 1994, but it took 10 years of legal battles until Hunt was released and exonerated. In 2003, the DNA profile from the crime scene matched another man. In 2004, that man confessed and pled guilty to the murder for which Hunt had been convicted twice.

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Hunt



North Carolina lawmakers approve sweeping reforms

Posted: July 24, 2007 5:14 pm

The North Carolina House and Senate gave unanimous approval yesterday to bills that will reform the state’s criminal justice system based on the lessons learned from wrongful convictions.

Under the new rules, many of which some local police departments already follow voluntarily, a lineup would be administered by someone not in the investigation and has no information about the potential suspect, with some exceptions.

The lineup would be administered by presenting photos or individuals to the eyewitness one at a time, rather than all at once, as a way to lead to an accurate outcome. Investigators also must document the witness' confidence level of an identification.

Another change would require all interrogations in a homicide investigation to be recorded by video or audio as a way to ensure that officers perform them properly.

Read the full story here. (The Charlotte Observer, 07/23/07)
North Carolina is among several states to take major steps in 2007 toward a fairer criminal justice system. Learn more about reforms enacted nationwide this year.

Read more on the Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog.

Tags: North Carolina, Eyewitness Misidentification



North Carolina case review raises questions about misconduct in identification procedure

Posted: August 16, 2007 11:26 am

The City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, released a police department review of an assault case this week – which identified possible misconduct by police and prosecutors leading to a man’s conviction 10 years ago. When the victim in the case was shown a photo lineup, she failed to identify the man who was later convicted. That lineup was videotaped and a transcript of the video was prepared before his trial. The transcript, prepared by police, does not include the photo lineup – and the man’s defense attorney says the video he was shown also excluded the lineup. A prosecutor on the case claimed that she showed the entire videotape to defense attorneys, and the prosecutor also filed a notice with the trial court saying that the transcript summarized the entire video.

Attorneys for Kalvin Michael Smith, who is serving a 22-year sentence for an assault he says he did not commit, have alleged that defense attorneys at trial were not aware that the witness had actually identified another person in the photo lineup. The review, conducted by the Winston-Salem Police Department, found that Detective Don Williams videotaped the photo lineup but then prepared a transcript of the video and failed to include the lineup in his transcript. In the review, Assistant District Attorney Mary Jean Behan claims that, regardless of the transcript, she showed the entire video (including portions that show the victim identifying another man instead of Smith) to Smith’s defense attorney. Smith’s defense attorney, William Speaks, recently signed an affidavit saying that he never saw the photo lineup on video and was never told about the photo lineup. A year later, after Smith had already been charged with the assault, Detective Williams again interviewed the victim and conducted a photo lineup; she identified Smith, but that interview was not recorded.

Read today’s and yesterday’s articles in the Winston-Salem Journal. Visit the newspaper’s special web section on this case.

Read about Darryl Hunt, who served 18 years after he was wrongfully convicted of a Winston-Salem murder and rape.

Tags: North Carolina



NC man freed after 18 years in prison

Posted: August 28, 2007 2:33 pm

A judge freed Dwayne Allen Dail this morning in Goldsboro, North Carolina, after DNA evidence proved his innocence of a 1987 rape for which he was sentenced to life in prison. Dail was misidentified by the 12-year-old victim in the case and a hair from the crime scene was reported to be consistent with Dail’s hair (and the hair of countless other Caucasian men). He had turned down an offer to plead guilty in exchange for three years of probation and had served 18 years in prison before his release this morning.

Chris Mumma, Dail’s attorney since 2001 and the director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, said the DNA results that prove Dail’s innocence also matches the profile of another person, already serving time in North Carolina prison.

District Attorney Branny Vickory joined with Dail’s attorneys in asking that the conviction be overturned, said that it became clear Monday when he received results of the DNA test that Dail should be freed immediately:

"The science has proved that Mr. Dail is innocent," Vickory told the Charlotte News & Observer. "He didn't do it. The evidence is so overwhelmingly strong, there's no need to wait."

Read the full story here.
Coverage of today’s hearing:

Charlotte News & Observer: Man released after 20 years in prison

WRAL, Raleigh-Durham: Judge Dismisses Rape Charges Against Goldsboro Man

Read more about how eyewitness misidentification and microscopic hair analysis have led to wrongful convictions.

Tags: North Carolina



North Carolina compensation law still lags behind national standard

Posted: August 30, 2007 10:42 am

Dwayne Dail was exonerated on Tuesday in Goldsboro, N.C., and his attorney Chris Mumma (the director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence) has said Dail will seek a pardon from the governor and compensation under the state statute, which provides $20,000 per year of wrongful incarceration. North Carolina is one of 22 states with laws providing for exoneree compensation, but the amount provided by the state lags behind the standard of up to $50,000 per year set by the federal government.

Texas lawmakers passed a law this year increasing exoneree compensation from $25,000 per year to $50,000 per year. The Innocence Project supports this reform.

How does your state stack up? View a map of compensation laws by state.

Read more about exoneree compensation.

Tags: North Carolina, Dwayne Dail, Exoneree Compensation



'Tar Heel of the Year' fights to free the innocent

Posted: January 2, 2008 3:28 pm

For six years, North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence Director Christine Mumma worked on the case of Dwayne Dail, a man serving time in prison for a crime he said he didn’t commit. Finally, in August, her hard work led to the DNA testing that exonerated Dail, freeing him from prison after 19 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
The News & Observer newspaper named Mumma its 2007 “Tar Heel of the Year” this week for her commitment to freeing the innocent and reforming North Carolina’s criminal justice system.

"There have been many prominent people who have strengthened the system," said former state Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., for whom Mumma clerked in the late 1990s. "Chris has gone beyond that, being innovative and willing to look at the process objectively and being willing to change it."

Read the full story here. (News & Observer, 12/30/07)
Visit the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence website.

Tags: North Carolina



North Carolina man will receive $370K for 18 years in prison

Posted: January 25, 2008 4:40 pm

The state of North Carolina will pay Dwayne Dail just under $370,000 to compensate him for the 18 years he was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. That amounts to about $20,000 for each year he served. North Carolina is one of 22 states in the country with a compensation law, but many – like North Carolina – don’t meet the federal standard of up to $50,000 per year served.

"There has to be laws written that (do) not excuse shoddy police work," Dail said. "The $20,000 a year is insulting. It' just not right -- no amount of money's going to make it right."

Read the full story here. (Goldsboro News-Argus, 01/25/08)
Does your state have a compensation law? View our interactive reform map to find out.

Tags: North Carolina, Dwayne Dail, Exoneree Compensation



Appalachian State University hosts series on wrongful convictions

Posted: February 14, 2008 12:06 pm

A string of films, discussions and performances on wrongful convictions began this week at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. The series will include panel discussions, lectures and screenings of the films “The Thin Blue Line,” “The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” “After Innocence” and “Deadline.” Exoneree Darryl Hunt will speak on Tuesday, Feb. 19, after the screening of the award-winning documentary about his case.

The university’s theater department will present the play “The Exonerated,” from March 4 to 8.

Read more about Appalachian State’s series here.

To host your own event on wrongful convictions, or to arrange for an exoneree to speak at an event, email us.

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Hunt



Exoneree and crime victim are named as Soros Justice Fellows

Posted: March 4, 2008 11:02 am

In July 1984, a man broke into Jennifer Thompson-Cannino’s North Carolina apartment and raped her. She identified Ronald Cotton in a lineup as the man who had attacked her, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In 1994, DNA testing on evidence from that rape proved that Cotton had been misidentified and wrongfully convicted. He had served more than a decade in prison before he was exonerated.

Yesterday the Open Society Institute announced that Cotton, Thompson-Cannino and author Erin Torneo are recipients of a 2008 Soros Justice Fellowship, which will provide support for the group to continue their work to raise awareness about wrongful convictions and eyewitness identification reforms. For years, Cotton and Thompson-Cannino have traveled around the country speaking about the dangers of wrongful conviction and reforms needed to prevent the eyewitness misidentifications.

Read more about the Soros Justice Fellowships here.

Read more about Ronald Cotton’s case here

Jennifer Thompson-Cannino’s op-eds have been published in New York Times, the Durham-Herald Sun, and the Tallahassee Democrat. Read her New York Times op-ed, “I was certain, but I was wrong,” here.

Tags: North Carolina, Ronald Cotton, Eyewitness Misidentification



As executions resume in U.S., so does the risk of executing the innocent

Posted: May 7, 2008 3:15 pm

Last night, Georgia ended a seven-month national moratorium on executions when William Lynd was executed by lethal injection. The de-facto moratorium came about while the U.S. Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of lethal injections. The court ruled last month that lethal injections could continue.

Meanwhile, Levon Jones was released from death row last week in North Carolina after his lawyers revealed new evidence of his innocence and showed that he received an inadequate defense at trial. Several death row inmates across the country are seeking to prove this innocence in the courts – including Innocence Project client Tommy Arthur, who has been seeking DNA testing from death row for years, and Georgia inmate Troy Davis.

Innocence Project client Paul House is still waiting in legal limbo for a decision after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the jury in House’s case may have acquitted him. House has been in prison for 22 years – much of it on death row – for a murder he says he didn’t commit. Prosecutors in his case said this week they would retry House, who remains in jail awaiting a new trial or his release. Read the full story here. (Tennessean, 05/07/08)

An article in today’s New York Times considers the state of legal representation for indigent Americans charged with capital crimes.

Georgia’s new public defender system came under attack by politicians and was recently forced to cut more than 40 positions.

That system, established after a series of lawsuits, was patterned after one North Carolina put in place in 2001, which was considered a national model. But not many other states have followed suit, said Robin Maher, director of the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project.

“I wish I could say that things have gotten a lot better, but in fact I can say with confidence that things have changed not much at all,” Ms. Maher said. “We are seeing the same kinds of egregiously bad lawyering that we saw 10 or 15 years ago, for a variety of reasons, including inadequate funding.”

Of the 36 states that allow the death penalty, only about 10 have statewide capital-defense systems, one of the practices recommended by the Bar Association.

 Read the full story here. (New York Times, 05/07/08)
And CBS reported on Monday that 14 executions are scheduled across the U.S. in the next six months and five states are considering expansions to the death penalty – allowing them to execute people for crimes other than murder. Meanwhile, five states are seriously considering repealing the death penalty. Watch the CBS News video here, featuring an interview with Kirk Bloodsworth, who spent 8 years on death row before DNA proved his innocence of a Maryland murder.


Tags: North Carolina, Kirk Bloodsworth, Death Penalty



Winston-Salem Journal calls on other states to join North Carolina in preserving evidence

Posted: August 20, 2008 5:20 pm

A Winston-Salem Journal editorial calls on other states in the country to pass laws preserving DNA evidence as North Carolina has done. Currently only 25 states and the District of Columbia have such laws. The editorial points out that lost or destroyed DNA evidence in one state can hamper another state’s efforts to get innocent people out of prison and apprehend the real criminals.

For example, say detectives in North Carolina who've re-opened a murder case in which someone has been convicted are looking for a match for DNA evidence found at the crime scene. The real killer's been in prison for an unrelated crime, but it's in a state that's lax on preserving such evidence. So his DNA isn't in the system. The killer stays free, and an innocent person stays in prison.
That's probably already happened numerous times. And it will probably happen a lot more. For example, in New York, a law that would have provided for DNA preservation died in the State Assembly in June, according to USA Today. Some states have shown a "shocking" disinterest in keeping DNA, said Larry Pozner, the former head of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "Innocent inmates are going to die in prison," he said.
The editorial does see some reason for hope in at least two states. Colorado and Arizona are both working towards legislation to preserve biological evidence.

Read the Winston-Salem Journal editorial.

Tags: Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado, Evidence Preservation



Friday roundup

Posted: September 5, 2008 3:07 pm

New projects and investigations launched this week by innocence organizations, law schools, prosecutors and attorneys general across the country show the momentum nationwide to overturn wrongful convictions and address the root causes of wrongful conviction to prevent future injustice. Here’s this week’s roundup:

Questions were raised about standards of DNA collection and preservation in Massachusetts after improper procedures were revealed in a high-profile case. Mass. is one of 25 states without a DNA preservation law.

The Mississippi Attorney General said this week that the state is underfunding DNA tests and DNA collection and a new task force is examining the state problem.

San Jose opened California’s largest crime lab, training began in Maryland before a new law expanding the state’s database took effect and cutbacks in Georgia led to furloughs for prosecutors and could cause lab closings.

The Midwest Innocence Project this week launched an investigation into a 1988 fire that killed six Kansas City firemen and led to the conviction of five people who say they’re innocent. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a first-of-its-kind panel dedicated to investigating cases of possible wrongful conviction, finished reviewing its first case, deciding that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the conviction of Henry A. Reeves. And  Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins asked county officials to allow filming in his offices in coming months for a Discovery Channel documentary.

Some of the best policy analysis and research to help improve our criminal justice system comes, of course, from our nation’s law schools – and now many of those schools have blogs. Marquette University Law School launched a new faculty law blog, and a post by Keith Sharfman finds that “blogging’s potential as a medium for serious legal discourse can no longer be doubted.” 

A column on asks: “Is the future of legal scholarship in the blogosphere?”

Here at the Innocence Project, we read law school blogs everyday. Among our favorites are Crim Prof Blog and Evidence Prof Blog

New York University Law School has formed a new Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, which will seek to promote “good government practices in criminal matters.”

Tags: California, North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, Innocence Commissions, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing, DNA Databases



North Carolina editorial: Fix the court system to prevent wrongful convictions

Posted: September 30, 2008 2:15 pm

An editorial in the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer calls on state officials to build a better system of criminal justice, one that doesn’t run such a high risk of sending the innocent to prison. Erick Daniels’ family members rejoiced in a Durham courtroom a week ago, when he was released after seven years in prison for a crime that he always maintained he didn’t commit. This joy, however, masked deeper flaws in the system, the editorial says.

There have been too many instances in recent years, by no means only in Durham, of North Carolina courts rendering judgments that turn out to demonstrably flawed. People have been sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit, and even have been placed at risk of execution.

Causes range from court systems struggling with a lack of resources to prosecutors who are too focused on the courtroom contest at the expense of getting things right. But the effects, besides the cruel unfairness of wrongful conviction, are also to let the guilty go free and to shake public trust in the judicial system.

Read the full story here. (News & Observer, 09/27/08)

Tags: North Carolina



Friday Roundup: Cases in Motion

Posted: February 27, 2009 5:30 pm

A North Carolina judge denied prisoner Ronnie Long access to a new trial for a 1976 rape he has always maintained he didn’t commit. The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence represents Long and has argued that evidence before his conviction should have cleared him.

A judge ordered DNA testing this week in the case of Esdras Cardona, a client of the Innocence Project of Florida.

Exoneree Steve Barnes spoke Tuesday in Albany before a New York State Bar committee investigating wrongful convictions and reforms to prevent future injustice. "I always believed in the system but the system failed me," Barnes said. Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom also testified about reforms supported the by the Innocence Project.

The Mississippi House of Representatives is considering a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to preserve DNA evidence in criminal convictions as long as the convicted person is incarcerated or under state supervision.

Exonerees, attorneys, students and policymakers from around the country will come together in Houston next month for the annual Innocence Network Conference. Learn more about the three-day event and register to attend here.

Tags: North Carolina, Steven Barnes



Friday Roundup: Compensation and Crime Lab Woes

Posted: June 5, 2009 5:00 pm

William Dillon of Florida was denied compensation from the state on Tuesday as a result of a "clean hands" law, which prevents exonerees with unrelated prior convictions from receiving compensation. The Innocence Project of Florida is pursuing measures to exempt Dillon from the statute, which would allow Dillon to receive $1.3 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction, but requires finding a sponsor in the state legislature, filing the claims bill and having it pass.

Two states are facing budget cuts that may put their crime labs at risk. In Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is trying to convince the state Justice Department to restore funds that were cut by the state legislature. Hollen says the budget cuts would force him to lay off staff and would result in increased backlogs.

The North Carolina legislature is considering closing the Greensboro crime lab, less than a year after it opened, to reduce state spending. The state has a $4 billion budget shortfall. Crime lab supporters argue that keeping the lab open could actually save the state more money in the long run.

According to Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, the lab not only takes on work that would otherwise have to be done in Raleigh, but it also saves local departments travel time. If getting a particular result is urgent, Barnes said, officers can wait for evidence to be processed on-site rather than having to drive back and forth twice.

“That has value you just can’t imagine or put a price on,” he said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments in the case of a Mississippi man requesting DNA testing to prove his innocence. Steve Michael Fasono and his attorneys argue that Fasono was not involved in the 2002 robbery of a bank, and that DNA testing of clothing used during the crime can conclusively prove he was not involved with the crime.

Meanwhile, Tim Kennedy is awaiting retrial with his family in Colorado while on bond after DNA tests proved not only that another man was present and left the tested samples at the scene of a murder, but that Kennedy’s DNA was not found on any of the evidence collected. Having spent 14 years in prison for the murder of a Colorado Springs couple, Kennedy’s retrial is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Kennedy’s case, along with various others, is posted on the Just Science Coalition’s news page – you can visit for weekly updates on forensic news.

Tags: North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Wisconsin, William Dillon



Friday Roundup: Progress Around the Country

Posted: August 14, 2009 5:30 pm

Important policy reforms, pending cases and other developments around the country this week highlighted the complexities of wrongful convictions and the need to prevent them at all levels.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue signed a bill on Tuesday that seeks to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The bill, which allows capital murder defendants and death row prisoners to challenge prosecutions based on evidence of racial bias, is the second such bill passed in the United States (Kentucky approved a similar bill in 1998.)

Critics of the Rhode Island probation system allege the state’s current policy can put innocent people in prison because the courts only need to be “reasonably satisfied” that defendants commit a crime, thereby violating parole.

Actress Hilary Swank told Variety magazine that she was excited to work on the “Betty Anne Waters” film because of its focus on wrongful convictions, an issue about which she cares deeply. Swank’s support of the Innocence Project is featured in Variety’s special issue on philanthropy.

Hundreds of mourners attended a funeral march for Donald Marshall Jr., who spent 11 years in a Canadian prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Marshall passed away at the age of 55 of complications from a previous double lung transplant.

New York man William McCaffrey was convicted of rape in 2005 and sentence to 20 years in prison based on the victim’s testimony and bite mark evidence. Last year, however, the alleged victim told the district attorney that she lied about the rape. Subsequent DNA tests have since proven that bite marks could not have been made by McCaffrey, but the district attorney’s office is still reviewing the case.

Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols of Arkansas were convicted of murder in the death of three West Memphis boys in 1993. Prosecutors originally argued that the boys were murdered in a cult ritual, but a forensic pathologist now says that the multiple injuries to the bodies were likely caused by animals, possibly turtles.

Tags: Arkansas, North Carolina, New York



North Carolina Prisoner Seeks Freedom

Posted: February 10, 2010 3:27 pm

A three-judge panel in North Carolina is holding hearings this week to determine if Greg Taylor’s 17-year-old murder conviction should be tossed out based on evidence of innocence.

North Carolina is the only state in the country with an Innocence Inquiry Commission charged with reviewing claims of innocence from people convicted of crimes and determining if they deserve another hearing. The panel voted unanimously last year to refer Taylor’s case to a panel of three judges, the final step in the process. The judges are conducting hearings this week, and will decide whether Taylor’s attorney have proven his innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

Another man has allegedly confessed to committing the crime and no physical evidence ties Taylor or a co-defendant to the victim.

At today’s hearings, a crime scene expert testified that a substance found in Taylor’s truck after the 1991 crime was not human blood. Crime scene analysts testified incorrectly at Taylor’s trial that the substance was blood, according to today’s testimony. Further evidence shows that analysts conducted tests on the substance before Taylor’s trial to determine if it was blood but didn’t include the result in reports.

Taylor has testified for eight hours this week, explaining his whereabouts on the night of the crime and denying prosecutors’ accusations that he is lying about his memory of the night.

Read more. (News & Observer, 02/10/10)

An editorial in the Salisbury Post today praised the work of the Innocence Inquiry Commission and urged North Carolinians to support efforts to overturn wrongful convictions in the state.

Read the full editorial here.

Tags: North Carolina



The Growing Call for Reform in North Carolina

Posted: August 31, 2010 5:53 pm

The advocates for the wrongfully convicted have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of death row prisoner Melvin Lee White, who says he was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit based on flawed tests conducted by the SBI.

…Mark Rabil, co-director of the Wake Forest University School of Law's Innocence & Justice Clinic…said the SBI has tried for years to "dupe" the public with lab results that do not meet scientific standard set for forensics.

"Truth is transparent," Rabil said. "We now know that just because your wear a badge and carry a gun doesn't mean you tell the truth."

Read the full story here.

Read more about North Carolina’s crime lab scandals in the Charlotte News & Observer’s recent investigative report: The Agents’ Secrets.

Tags: North Carolina, Death Penalty



Prosecutors Would Block Review of Confession Cases

Posted: May 10, 2011 5:18 pm

Innocence and Justice Clinic at the Wake Forest University School of Law Co-director Carol Turowski disagrees, saying that all cases should be considered by the commission.

"There have been a number of people who accepted pleas who were innocent," Turowski said. "I don't think that the innocence commission should eliminate cases involving pleas. People take plea bargains because they are scared of losing jury trials. They might suffer more serious consequences such as a longer sentence."

For many reasons – including mental health issues and aggressive law enforcement tactics – innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit.

Read the full article.

Read more about criminal justice reform commissions.

Understand the Causes: How False Confessions Happen.

Tags: North Carolina, False Confessions



High School Performance to Benefit Innocence Project

Posted: January 25, 2012 2:00 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Weekly Roundup: Honoring the Exonerated and Reviewing the Justice System

Posted: January 30, 2012 10:30 am

Tags: North Carolina, Donald Gates, Darryl Hunt



Science Thursday - May 17, 2012

Posted: May 17, 2012 3:40 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania



New Evidence Could Free North Carolina Man

Posted: June 29, 2012 4:15 pm

A North Carolina man who has spent nearly 17 years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit could be freed Friday afternoon if a judge releases him and orders a new trial.

LaMonte Armstrong was convicted of the 1988 murder of one of his former professors at North Carolina A&T State University and sentenced to life in prison in 1995. At a hearing at the Guilford County Courthouse today, Armstrong’s attorneys and an assistant district attorney will recommend his release based on evidence that implicates a convicted murderer. Investigators identified a palm print belonging to another suspect, Christopher Caviness, at the victim’s home near where the body was discovered. Caviness, who was convicted of murdering his father in 1989, died in a traffic accident in 2010 after being released from prison. The Associated Press reports:

The print doesn't prove Caviness' guilt, but if jurors had known about the match, they probably wouldn't have convicted Armstrong, Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Neumann said.

Neumann said he expects the judge to vacate Armstrong's conviction and release him from prison shortly after Friday's hearing. Prosecutors don't plan to seek bond guaranteeing Armstrong will appear for future court hearings, Neumann said.

No physical evidence linked Armstrong to the crime scene, just the testimonies of four convicted felons—one of whom claimed to be a witness to the murder and received a sentence of five years as an accessory to the murder. He has since recanted citing pressure from police. The other three informants claimed that Armstrong confessed to them.  Armstrong’s attorneys at the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic and the Duke Law Innocence Project said that prosecutors withheld information favorable to the defense.

Read the full article.

Tags: North Carolina



Science Thursday - August 23, 2012

Posted: August 23, 2012 5:45 pm

An Indiana woman convicted of murder based on arson evidence receives a new trial, a panel of exonerees speak about forensic flaws at a conference in Philadelphia, and laboratory issues in North Carolina and Minnesota affect criminal cases. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
Kristine Bunch, of Indiana, was released from prison and has been granted a new trial after serving 16 years. Her conviction for the murder of her three-year-old son was reversed because the arson evidence critical to her conviction has been discredited.
Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld called on the American Chemical Society to help prevent wrongful convictions based on faulty forensics at a recent conference in Philadelphia. He was joined by three exonerees who spent years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
North Carolina prosecutors dropped a DWI case because a former state crime lab analyst refused to accept a subpoena to testify.
Senior officials at the St. Paul Police Department are demanding answers for the drug unit’s failure.

Tags: North Carolina, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Science Thursday



Murder Conviction Dismissed for Man in North Carolina

Posted: September 4, 2012 4:45 pm

A North Carolina Superior Court Judge dismissed a murder conviction Friday of Noe Moreno who has been in prison since 2007. Moreno pled guilty to several charges including second-degree murder associated with a two-car collision that left one man dead.
Moreno was riding in the passenger seat of his brother Jorge’s car when the accident occurred. The impact left Noe’s feet in the passenger well but his upper body leaning across the driver’s seat which was occupied by Jorge, and Jorge’s feet in the driver’s well but his upper body leaning across the passenger seat. Both men had been drinking, and when responders arrived on the scene Noe was pulled from the driver’s side and identified as the driver. At the hospital, both he and his brother reported the mix up, but Noe was arrested anyway.
New evidence from two independent crash experts who reconstructed the fatal accident suggests that Jorge Moreno was the driver, not Noe, reported the Charlotte Observer.

Prosecutors told the Observer that had the new evidence been available five years ago, Moreno would not have pleaded guilty and the state would not have proceeded with its prosecution of him.
“As prosecutors, it is our responsibility to seek justice in every case,” District Attorney Andrew Murray told the Observer.
“In this case, where new evidence casts such a strong doubt on the defendant’s guilt, justice requires us to inform the court of the new evidence and to dismiss the charges despite the fact that the defendant pleaded guilty.”

The Duke University School of Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic accepted Moreno’s case in 2009 and presented the results of its investigation to the District Attorney’s homicide team in 2010, After an expert they hired determined Moreno could not have been the driver, the DA’s office requested funding to hire additional reconstruction experts to conduct the same tests.
Moreno, an undocumented immigrant, was sent back to prison after Friday’s hearing while officials at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement decide when or if he will be released or deported.
Read the full article.

Tags: North Carolina



Science Thursday - September 20, 2012

Posted: September 20, 2012 2:40 pm

A Massachusetts crime lab scandal intensifies while a North Carolina crime lab sets a new precedent for accreditation. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
Amidst growing allegations of misdeeds at the Massachusetts state crime lab, Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach resigned on Monday. As commissioner, Auerbach admits that he “shares accountability for the breakdown in oversight.”
The North Carolina State Crime Laboratory adopts new working standards in order to become the first lab in the United States that holds accreditation from both the American Society of Crime Lab Director Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB) and Forensic Quality Services (FSQ).
A recent discovery by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student might affect how crime scene investigators use knowledge of insect behavior to determine the relative time of death. Further research to discern blood spatter from insect activity at a crime scene is being funded by the National Institute of Justice.

Tags: North Carolina, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Science Thursday



North Carolina Man Declared Innocent

Posted: October 10, 2012 12:00 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Innocence Network Week in Review: December 14, 2012

Posted: December 14, 2012 4:40 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Innocence Network



Science Thursday - December 20, 2012

Posted: December 20, 2012 2:00 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Science Thursday



Science Thursday - January 17, 2013

Posted: January 17, 2013 11:30 am

Tags: North Carolina, Iowa, Minnesota, Virginia, New York, Science Thursday



Science Thursday - February 7, 2013

Posted: February 7, 2013 1:40 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Massachusetts, Texas, New York, Science Thursday



Innocence Network Week in Review: February 8, 2013

Posted: February 8, 2013 4:25 pm

Tags: California, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio



North Carolina Exoneree to Reunite With Sister After 40 Years

Posted: March 15, 2013 3:25 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Hunt



Innocence Network Week in Review: March 29, 2013

Posted: March 29, 2013 3:25 pm

Tags: California, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Innocence Network



2013 Innocence Network Conference Meets in Charlotte

Posted: April 19, 2013 2:50 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Innocence Network



Exonerees Talk to NPR at the Innocence Network Conference

Posted: April 23, 2013 5:25 am

Tags: North Carolina, Bennie Starks, Audrey Edmunds, Innocence Network



"The minute you give die."

Posted: April 25, 2013 3:30 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Sedrick Courtney, Henry James, Raymond Towler, Audrey Edmunds, Innocence Network



North Carolina Compensates Two Wrongly Convicted Men

Posted: August 13, 2013 12:25 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Science News - August 15, 2013

Posted: August 15, 2013 2:40 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Science Thursday



Science News - September 6, 2013

Posted: September 6, 2013 10:30 am

Tags: North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, Science Thursday



North Carolina Forensic Advisory Board Discusses Large-Scale Improvements

Posted: October 24, 2013 5:35 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Science Thursday



New DNA Points to Innocence of North Carolina Man

Posted: March 20, 2014 6:00 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Anthony Howard



North Carolina Man Files Suit Against Officers

Posted: March 24, 2014 6:30 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck Discusses Race Bias in the Courts

Posted: April 15, 2014 3:35 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Racial Bias



North Carolina Court Points to Prosecutorial Misconduct in Conviction Reversal

Posted: May 28, 2014 5:00 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Charlotte Observer Investigates Medical Examiner’s Office

Posted: May 29, 2014 5:05 pm

Tags: North Carolina



North Carolina Man to be Released

Posted: July 11, 2014 2:40 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Anthony Howard



Winston-Salem Chronicle Calls for Justice in Howard Case

Posted: July 25, 2014 1:40 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Anthony Howard



Reflections of an Exoneree Ten Years Later

Posted: August 18, 2014 5:05 pm

Tags: North Carolina, Darryl Hunt



North Carolina Man Expected to be Released

Posted: August 26, 2014 2:50 pm

Tags: North Carolina



DNA Evidence Clears Two North Carolina Men

Posted: September 3, 2014 4:05 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Charlotte Observer Says Innocence Case Proves Flaws in Death Penalty

Posted: September 5, 2014 4:15 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Inside Look on Freeing the Innocent

Posted: September 30, 2014 4:20 pm

Tags: North Carolina



The Los Angeles Times Calls for Recording of Interrogations

Posted: October 15, 2014 6:25 pm

Tags: California, North Carolina, Leon Brown, Henry Lee McCollum, False Confessions, False Confessions, Death Penalty



North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission to review Joseph Sledge case

Posted: December 3, 2014 4:30 pm

Tags: North Carolina



Duke University’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic Seeks New Trial for North Carolina Man

Posted: January 8, 2015 6:21 pm

Eighteen years ago, 17-year-old Derrick McRae, a black man, was convicted in the murder of a white man in the drug-plagued projects of Rockingham, North Carolina. Despite rejecting several plea deals and being found not guilty by 8 out of 12 jurors in his first trial, McRae was found guilty when retried several weeks later and sentenced to life without parole in 1998. As reported by the Independent Weekly, new evidence suggests that McRae is innocent and his constitutional rights were violated.  

Nicole Wolfe, the forensic psychiatrist who first evaluated McRae after his conviction, described him as “one of the most severely mentally ill people I've ever evaluated." She didn’t believe McRae was capable of murder. Years later, unable to shake the case from her conscience, Wolfe called the director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, asking that the organization look into his case.

The case was referred to Duke University's Wrongful Convictions Clinic in 2007. Attorney Teresa Newman noticed that the two witness testimonies differed wildly. One, Edward Tender, a jailhouse informant who claimed that McRae confessed to the murder, described McRae as an angry, shrewd disciple of Stokely Carmichael who targeted the victim because of his race. The other, Thurman Nelson, who was also charged with the murder, said the murder occurred when the victim gave McRae counterfeit money in a drug deal. The allegation that McRae was an erudite Black Panther also contradicted Wolfe’s psychiatric evaluation, which noted that the teen could not name five cities or spell the word “world.”  

In an unprecedented move, the prosecution called Tender to testify against McRae in the second trial while still under indictment for the murder himself.  As Newman explained to Independent Weekly, "That doesn't happen! Either he's lying, or his indictment can't stand. You can't have it both ways."  When interviewed by Newman, Tender recanted his statement and said McRae was framed. When cross-examined in December, however, Tender said that his 1998 testimony was true, as far as he could recall.

Although both witness claimed at trial that they didn’t receive a deal in exchange for their testimony, both eventually received reduced sentences and dismissed charges after they testified.  After the two witnesses testified, they received reduced sentences in their own criminal cases.  Yet the prosecution never disclosed the existence of a deal in exchange for their testimony. 

 A brief filed by attorneys at Duke calls for McRae’s conviction to be overturned and the murder charge dropped due to the lack of evidence tying him to the crime. Judge W. David Lee is expected to decide this month whether the new evidence presented warrants a new trial.

Read the Independent Weekly article here.

Tags: North Carolina



Joseph Sledge Exonerated and Released After 36 Years in Prison

Posted: January 23, 2015 5:07 pm

A panel of judges exonerated and released Joseph Sledge on Friday. Sledge, 70, served 36 years in prison for a double-murder which DNA evidence proves he did not commit.  

Since his arrest, Sledge has denied involvement in the 1976 murders of Josephine and Ailene Davis. Police linked Sledge to the crime because he escaped from a nearby prison on the day of the murder after a fellow inmate threatened his life. 

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission began examining Sledge’s case in December after a ten-year investigation by the Center on Actual Innocence revealed that DNA testing of hairs on one of the victim’s bodies could prove his innocence. 

Herman Baker, one of the two jailhouse informants that testified during Sledge’s trial, went before the Innocence Inquiry Commission in December, telling members police offered him early release from prison and a monetary reward if he said Sledge confessed to him. The other informant is deceased but was also given a deal in his own criminal case. 

Sledge is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted person in North Carolina history.  

Read the breaking news story here.

Tags: North Carolina