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Innocence Commission case ends with no change

Posted September 3, 2008

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— In the first hearing of its kind, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission reviewed the case of Henry Reeves and let stand his 2001 conviction for taking indecent liberties with a child.

Reeves' case was the first to be heard by the eight-member panel. The commission took it after new evidence appeared to support his claim that he did not molest his daughter in 1999.

The three judges – Robert Hobgood from Franklin County, D. Jack Hooks from Bladen County and Yvonne Mimms Evans from Mecklenburg County – concluded that even with the new evidence, Reeves "failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is innocent of the charge.”

Their ruling may not be appealed.

Gov. Mike Easley signed a law in August 2006 to create the commission, the first of its kind in the nation.

In 2007, the General Assembly established the panel not only to examine cases but also to study how wrongful convictions can be avoided. The state chief justice or the chief judge of the Court of Appeals appoints each member.

Since May, the commission has received requests to review 288 cases. Of those, 135 are still under review, and 148 have been rejected. Four are under investigation.

Reeves' case was the first sent to a special hearing before a three-judge panel.

About 90 percent of the cases submitted to the Innocent Inquiry Commission are likely to be rejected. About 58 percent are declined because there is not enough factual evidence to prove someone is innocent. About 18 percent are rejected because there is no new evidence, and 14 percent are turned town because of a guilty plea.

Homicide and child-sex-offense cases make up half the cases.

The commission does not address claims of legal, technical errors in trials. That job remains with the state's court system.

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