Innocence advocate: Exoneration process moves too slowly

Posted January 26, 2016
Updated January 27, 2016

— The state's top advocate for people who were wrongly convicted of crimes told North Carolina lawmakers on Tuesday that they need to streamline the system that she helped put in place to free them.

Christine Mumma, executive director of the nonprofit North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, said the state Innocence Inquiry Commission needs to work more quickly to free people who've been proven to be wrongly incarcerated.

Mumma helped write the 2006 legislation that created the commission, the first of its kind in the nation. When the process was first set up, it was full of fail-safes and redundancies to bolster public confidence.

Nine years and nine exonerations later, however, she said the process moves too slowly. Lawmakers should consider changes to reduce the commission's caseload and speed up its handling of exonerations, she said.

"What's important once there's evidence of innocence is to get that person home as an innocent man, because after 10, 20, 30 years, their innocence is all they have left. That's what they're holding on to," Mumma told members of a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety subcommittee.

She said she has three cases that have been before the Commission for four years with little progress. While cases are before the commission, those inmates cannot use other methods to argue their innocence. Another example she offered was that of 70-year-old Joseph Sledge, who was exonerated last year after 37 years in prison for a double murder he didn't commit. It took 18 months for the Innocence Commission to free him.

The exoneration process should be streamlined when advocates and prosecutors agree someone has been wrongly convicted, Mumma said, and advocates shouldn't be required to find the real perpetrator of a crime before someone wrongly convicted can be set free.


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  • Roy Twisdale Jan 27, 2016
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    No it does not offend me. What offends me is perjury. She has lied under oath. To say you accidentally took the wrong water bottle and expect anyone to believe that is a joke. What has she done in the past that we are not aware of. I am all for getting it right when it comes to incarcerating innocent people. Again, her actions would have disqualified any evidence if it had pointed to the guys she thought did this. That would have been offensive. It one thing to cross the line, it's another to lie about it under oath!

  • Catherine Edwards Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

    If it offends you that she had a water bottle tested for DNA on a potential suspect, then you must be greatly offended by the practices and people that caused the incarceration of innocent people.

    Communities aren't safe when the wrong people are in prison. That's the bottom line.

  • Roy Twisdale Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

    This person broke the low when she stole evidence from a potential suspects sisters house and then claimed she took it accidentally. I don't think she needs to be given a forum to express any of her views. The evidence turned out to not support her theory, but had it the courts would have not used it. I applaud the work thank anyone does to right injustices, but there are guidelines that have to be followed and she did not do that. I am not a fan of hers.

    No ones really believes that she accidentally took the wrong water bottle.