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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Wrongly Convicted |40 Years Ago Set Free

(CN) - A 70-year-old North Carolina man walked free on Friday hours after a state Supreme Court panel held he was wrongly convicted 40 years ago of stabbing a mother and daughter to death.

During this morning's hearing the three-judge panel heard from a DNA expert who said none of the evidence collected during the investigation into the September 1976 slaying of Josephine and Aileen Davis, matched Joseph Sledge.

After the panel's decision was announced, district attorney Jon David, of North Carolina's 13th judicial district, turned and apologized to the longtime inmate.

"The system has made a mistake," David said.

Sledge was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors claimed Sledge killed the mother and daughter a day after he escaped from a prison work farm where he was serving a four-year sentence for larceny.

Sledge is the eighth person exonerated after the state set up the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state run agency of its kind.

The commission conducted a hearing on Sledge's case in early December 2014, and voted unanimously that there was sufficient evidence to merit judicial review.

In addition to the lack of DNA evidence, the commission also cited a letter from Herman Baker, a jailhouse informant at Sledge's 1978 trial, who recanted his testimony and said he willingly helped authorities convict the innocent man in return for leniency in his own pending drug case.

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