Chris Mumma, champion of the falsely accused, faces accusations of lawyer misconduct
Posted May 12, 2015
Updated May 13, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Chris Mumma, who successfully represented Dwayne Dail, Greg Taylor and others in their murder exonerations, is accused by the North Carolina State Bar of violating professional conduct rules during her work on the Joseph Sledge case.
In a complaint filed Monday, Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, is accused of unethically collecting a DNA sample and not telling anyone how she got it.
Mumma could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
Sledge, 70, spent nearly four decades behind bars for the 1976 stabbing deaths of Josephine Davis, 74, and Ailene Davis, 53, in their Elizabethtown home. He was cleared of the killings in January after newly discovered evidence cast doubt on his involvement.
The complaint alleges that, in October 2013, Mumma visited the home of a woman whose brothers were considered possible suspects in the killings to obtain a DNA sample. Mumma believed the sample would strengthen Sledge’s claims of innocence, the complaint said.
The woman feared Mumma was “looking for a ‘scapegoat’” and declined to provide a sample. Mumma left the home with a half-empty water bottle that she knew may not have belonged to her, the complaint said.
“When Mumma realized she had a cool, half-empty water bottle that might yield a sample,” of the DNA she was looking for, the complaint alleges, “she decided not to take it back into the home, but to take it with her to contemplate whether to submit it for DNA analysis.”
After the family decided not to provide a DNA sample, Mumma had the water bottle tested, the complaint said.
The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was simultaneously working on the case and obtained the DNA samples through court orders. The samples did not match DNA found at the crime scene.
But Mumma continued pursuing the family, the complaint said, by contacting family members to see if others were in the house during her visit. She never mentioned that the water bottle was taken from the home, the complaint said.
Mumma is accused of using “methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of a third person,” engaging “in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,” engaging in conduct “that is prejudicial to the administration of justice” and obtaining evidence in a manner that violated the woman’s rights.
A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Aug. 7.