RALEIGH, N.C. — An inmate once sentenced to die for murder became a free man Wednesday after a Bertie County jury took less than three hours to acquit Alan Gell.
The verdict gave hope to other death-row inmates who feel they were wrongly convicted or should not die.
George Page was sentenced to death in 1996 for killing a Winston-Salem police officer. Wednesday, Page's supporters said he should not die because he suffers from post-war stress.
Attorneys argued for Page's life, just eight days before he is scheduled to die.
"The very nature of the crime -- coming out of his apartment with beer in his hand, his underwear and a rifle -- begs the lay person's question of what was going through his mind," defense attorney Walter Jones said.
According to his lawyers, Page is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. They argued that he suffered a flashback the day he fired shots from his apartment window, killing a Winston-Salem police officer.
Jones said Page's sentence should be commuted to life in prison.
"Anybody who has seen him will say he's 63 going on 83," Jones said. "Afforded the opportunity to live a few more years, Page will die in prison, and we will not have to wonder about the credibility of the court system."
Prosecutors contend that because Page was a mechanic in Vietnam, he could not suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
Now, the only person standing between Page and death is Gov. Mike Easley.
"Governor Easley will have firsthand experience with defendants who have committed crimes at the impetus of mental illness," Jones said, "not because they are mean, spiteful or hateful people."