WAYNE COUNTY, N.C. — A Wayne County man says he is still being punished for a crime he did not commit. Tonight, Terence Garner wants to know why the governor is taking so long to issue him a pardon. Garner said freedom is not enough without compensation for lost time.
It has been a year-and-a-half since Terence Garner walked out of the Johnston County Courthouse a free man. But today, he still feels imprisoned.
"I still feel like I got the weight of the world on my shoulders," he said.
Garner quit community college to find work, but he believes past accusations left him unemployed.
"It's been hard getting jobs," he said.
Garner spent four years in prison for an armed robbery and shooting at Quality Finance. The shooting victim, Alice Wise, never wavered in her identification of Garner, but other witnesses saw it differently and another man later confessed, which led a judge to throw out the case. The district attorney decided not to retry the case.
Garner believes he deserves a long overdue pardon of innocence from Gov. Mike Easley. A pardon would qualify him to apply for compensation from the Industrial Commission. Under the law, he would be eligible for $20,000 a year for four years of wrongful imprisonment.
"I ain't got no job. I can't support my family financially. I'm just trying to take care of my responsibilities," he said.
Garner's responsibilities now include his fiancee who is pregnant with their son. He said he does not want to go down the same road as some of his old drug-dealing friends.
"I see all the money they are making and all the money they would be having and say, 'Man, I could do this because I used to do this,' but I see that's the wrong route," Garner said.
Garner said he wants to take the right route. Since the state cannot give him back the four years he lost, he feels he deserves compensation to start a new life.
The governor's office will only say Garner's case is still under consideration. Since the compensation law went into effect in 1997, at least three cleared inmates have received money from the state.