RALEIGH, N.C. — A prison inmate sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder more than 30 years ago says he's changed and vows not to re-offend once he's released.
James Pone, 48, was convicted of second-degree murder in Bladen County in the shooting death of cab driver Neil Purdie in 1978. Purdie was found beside his taxi, dead from a blow to the head and a gunshot wound to his chest.
"I know that it was wrong," Pone said Thursday. "I'm sorry for what I did and I regret it. I know that I can't bring this person back. I mean, I want to make sure the family knows that I regret it and that I'm really sorry."
Pone is one of 20 convicted rapists and murderers set to be released next Tuesday because of an appellate court decision this month on a legal loophole.
"I can't speak for the other people, but for myself, I'm not going to hurt anybody ever again. I'm not coming back," he said.
Pone says he was 16 at the time of his arrest and that he did not know he had killed Purdie during a robbery attempt.
Thirty-one years later, he says he thinks about the crime every day, and understands public outrage over his release.
"I've paid for it, not just for the time served but inside, because it hurts every day. I just hope I can be released and that they see I will do the right thing," he said.
"They don't have to worry about me ever hurting anybody ever again because my heart now is filled with love."
Pone, who was scheduled to be released in March, has been involved in a pre-release program for the past decade. He said he has support from his family, his girlfriend and has a stable home plan that he believes will help him re-enter society.
"There's a whole lot of changes, but I feel like I'll be fine, because I'm an easy learner and I have people to help me," he said.
Whether Pone or any of the other inmates will actually be released is still unclear.
Late Thursday, Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a statement that there are enough issues unresolved to keep them in jail. The North Carolina Attorney General's Office said the Department of Correction is not to release any of the inmates until further notice. (Read more about this development.)