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North Carolina governor signs law establishing inmate innocence commission

[JURIST] North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley [official website] Thursday signed into law [press release] a bill establishing an innocence inquiry commission [H1323 summary] which will review appeals by inmates who claim they have been wrongly convicted. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is modeled after the system in the United Kingdom [CCRC website] and is the first of its kind in the US. Inmates who have new evidence to present which was not previously considered in court can bring their innocence claims to the eight-member panel beginning in November. If five or more commission members consider the evidence to be a potential consideration for innocence, the case will then go to a group of three North Carolina Superior Court [official website] judges. A unanimous decision by the three judges is necessary to overturn a conviction.

The innocence commission was prompted based on wrongful convictions in several high profile cases in North Carolina, including Darryl Hunt [advocacy website; Wikipedia profile], who was found innocent of murder based on DNA evidence after serving 18 years in jail, and Alan Gell, who was released from death row based on evidence that prosecutors purposefully withheld in his trial. AP has more.

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