USA: NORTH CAROLINA MAN EXONERATED AFTER 17 YEARS
February 17, 2010: The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission frees Gregory Taylor, 47, white, who was sentenced to life in 1993 for 1st degree homicide. In an historic decision, a panel of judges outside of the state's court system unanimously voted to exonerate and release Gregory Taylor, a man who was imprisoned for nearly 17 years for first-degree murder.
In April 1993, Taylor was convicted of the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas, 27, black, a prostitute found dead in Raleigh. Police arrested Taylor after finding his SUV about 100 yards from the crime scene, even though there was never any physical evidence linking Taylor to the victim.
Taylor became the first person in the state to be exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run agency in the United States with the power to overturn convictions based on claims of innocence. Earlier, the eight-member Commission had voted unanimously to send Taylor's case to the next level of review before the panel of three judges.
The judges voted unanimously to undo Taylor's 1993 conviction of murdering Thomas. Their decision exonerates Taylor and releases him from a term of life in prison. After the decision was read, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby walked over to Taylor, shook his hand and apologized that he had been convicted. Taylor is the first person in North Carolina to be exonerated using a new process established to handle convicted people's claims of innocence.
Last September, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission voted unanimously that Taylor's case warranted further review. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is a state agency established in August 2006 by the General Assembly to investigate and evaluate post-conviction claims of factual innocence. The Commission only examines new evidence that was not considered at trial.
The Commission is made up of eight members selected by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the Chief Judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals The members include a Superior Court Judge, a Prosecuting Attorney, a Defense Attorney, a Victim Advocate, a Member of the Public, a Sheriff, and two Discretionary members. (Sources: WRAL News, 17/02/2010)