A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

North Carolina innocence commission releases first inmate

[JURIST] The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission [official website] on Wednesday overturned a man's 1993 murder conviction in its first exoneration of an inmate who claimed to have been wrongly convicted. George Taylor, who had served 17 years of a life sentence and had exhausted all other appeals options, became the first person to be exonerated [Charlotte Observer report] under the commission since the commission's creation in 2006 [text, PDF]. To receive commission review, inmates with new evidence not previously considered in court can bring their innocence claims to an eight-member panel, consisting of judges, attorneys, a sheriff, a victim's advocate, and a member of the public. If five or more commission members consider the evidence to be a potential consideration for innocence, the case will then go to a panel of three North Carolina Superior Court [official website] judges, who must deliver a unanimous decision to overturn a conviction. The appointed commission judges found that faulty evidence and unreliable witnesses [Boston Herald report] were used to wrongfully convict Taylor at trial.

The commission, the first and only program of its kind in the US, was signed into law [JURIST report] in August 2006 and has received more than 600 claims of innocence. Its creation was prompted based on wrongful convictions in several high-profile cases in North Carolina, including Darryl Hunt, who was found innocent of murder based on DNA evidence after serving 18 years in jail, and Alan Gell [advocacy websites], who was released from death row based on evidence that prosecutors purposefully withheld in his trial. The commission is modeled after the UK's Criminal Cases Review Commission [official website].

About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.