Innocence

Prison cell
DOliphant via Flickr

This November voters in North Carolina will decide whether people accused of felonies should have the opportunity to decide whether they want a judge or jury to decide their case. Jeff Welty, an associate professor in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, has been studying the potential implications this constitutional amendment may have on the state.  He talked with Phoebe Judge.

Conversation highlights:

Why has it taken North Carolina so long to address the issue?

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

A North Carolina judge has ordered a man to be released from prison after serving 20 years of eight life sentences.  An attorney says 57-year-old Michael Alan Parker was released from Craggy Correctional Center near Asheville today. 

Parker was convicted in 1994 of 12 counts of sex crimes against his children, performed in a ritualistic manner. 

His defense attorney Sean Devereux asked for a new trial after doctors reviewed medical evidence.  Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman says advancements in forensic investigations swayed the judge's decision.

Sameer Abdel-Khalek

Across the country, 306 wrongfully convicted inmates have been exonerated because of DNA evidence. The number of people exonerated through other means is hard to calculate, since not all states keep records of exonerees.  It might be close to 1,000. But that could be a gross undercount. Over 100 exonerees and many others gathered in Charlotte this past weekend for the 2013 Innocence Network Conference.  There, The State of Things host Frank Stasio sat down with two exonerees and two legal professionals to learn more about their stories.

Sameer Abdel-Khalek

Across the country, 306 wrongfully convicted inmates have been exonerated because of DNA evidence. The number of people exonerated through other means is hard to calculate, since not all states keep records of exonerees.  It might be close to 1,000. But that could be a gross undercount. Over 100 exonerees and many others gathered in Charlotte this past weekend for the 2013 Innocence Network Conference.  There, The State of Things host Frank Stasio sat down with two exonerees and two legal professionals to learn more about their stories.

A Hickory man has been released from prison as he continues seeking to prove his innocence in a 1987 rape case.

Gurnal Scott: Willie James Grimes served more then two decades in prison for rape and kidnapping. He walked out of prison this morning on parole..but his conviction still follows him. He had to register with the state as a sex offender. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission ruled last month that a review of Grimes' case is warranted. His attorney Christine Mumma says they discovered evidence that had been overlooked.

Two North Carolina men convicted of murder say there is new evidence that shows they are innocent. Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with a shooting in Buncombe County more than 10 years ago. They appear before the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission today. That panel is responsible for last year's exoneration of Greg Taylor, who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.