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Attorney: Evidence never linked Taylor to murder

Posted February 9, 2010

— A convicted murderer getting a second chance at freedom testified Tuesday that he felt like police investigators were trying to trick him into confessing to a crime he maintains he did not commit.

"I had the truth on my side, but they just did not want to listen to it and made no effort to verify it," Gregory Taylor said during a hearing before a three-judge panel that will decide whether he should be released from prison.

"They just kept on me with accusations and tricks. I knew they were tricks because I was innocent. There's no way he could have any substance to this," he continued.

Taylor, 47, was convicted April 19, 1993, of first-degree murder in the Sept. 26, 1991, stabbing and beating death of 26-year-old Jacquetta Thomas.

Innocence Inquiry Commission hears Taylor case Innocence Inquiry Commission hears case

The case is the second to go before a panel of Superior Court judges appointed by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, established in 2007 by the General Assembly to investigate and evaluate claims and evidence not considered at trial.

In September, the commission referred Taylor's case to the panel for an evidentiary hearing – not a trial.

Taylor and another man, Johnny Beck, were arrested and charged about 12 hours after police found Thomas' body on South Blount Street in Raleigh.

Taylor testified Tuesday that he and Beck were in the area on the night of Sept. 25 to buy and use cocaine and that he got his truck stuck in the mud. He said he saw a body in the road as well as another person he thought to be a man but did not call police because he had been using cocaine and was paranoid.

When he returned to get his truck the next day, investigators were already at the scene, he said, and that he offered to talk to police, never thinking he would be charged.

"I didn't think I was guilty of anything, except maybe not calling police," Taylor said.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire also argued that police never pursued any other suspects in the case and that there was never any evidence to link his client to Thomas' death.

"Police made no effort to see if there were other people who may have had a motive," Cheshire said.

Instead, he said, investigators used a false report of blood in and on Taylor's truck and testimony of a "jailhouse snitch" to help convict him.

"An examination of physical and factual evidence in this case will show that Greg Taylor did not commit this crime," Cheshire said.

There were never any physical links between Thomas and Taylor, Cheshire said. Police found no weapon and, despite investigators' claim of blood in Taylor's truck, there no blood evidence connecting the two. Blood tests were "presumptive" but not confirmed, he said.

There were also defensive wounds on Thomas' body, but there were no scratches on Taylor or Beck, he added.

Cheshire said Ernest Andrews, a witness for the state had never met Taylor but that he told police Taylor cut Thomas' throat and that she died with a smile on her face. Andrews had been in jail awaiting a prison sentence and had been looking to make a plea deal, Cheshire said.

"Her throat was not cut," Cheshire said. "She did not die with a smile."

Witness Eva Kelly initially told investigators she saw Thomas with a man who wasn't Taylor, Cheshire said. In jail on a probation violation, she later changed her account to say Taylor was with Thomas, and in exchange for her testimony received a reduced sentence.

Taylor and Beck both denied being involved in the crime, and Beck was eventually released because there was not enough evidence to convict him.

Not mentioned Tuesday was evidence presented before the Innocence Commission in September that included statements from another inmate, Craig H. Taylor, who confessed to killing Thomas.

Craig Taylor, who is serving time as a habitual felon and drug dealer, told an investigator that he hit Thomas in the face and beat her to death with a bat.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has called Craig Taylor "a flawed witness" because he has confessed to more than 70 homicides that have been false.

61 Comments

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  • nanasix Feb 10, 2010

    I wonder if the DA was Nifong??? I hope and pray that if this man is innocent, that he is freed and the state does something to help him start his life over. The years in prison will never be taken away, but it's wrong for an innocent man's life to be destroyed. If anything, what's happened to him is worse than what happened to the victim. I've learned our legal system leaves a great deal to be desired. Our lawyers and DA's all have a motive, and it's not "JUSTICE".

  • Real-Old-School Feb 10, 2010

    Wow - Some of you should spend less time watching CSI and more time reading the trial transcript. It's not unusual for there not to be blood and fiber evidence except on TV. These guys had hours to change cloths and clean up before they went back to the scene.
    JuryDoc
    The jury did know about the deal between the prosecutor and the witness-they actually had the opportunity to read the document and touch it in court.
    The bottom line is that the witness said that the dead girl was partying with him right before she died and left in his car and the jury thought she was telling the truth.
    If we are going to second guess juries we also need a "truth commission" to follow the "innocence commission" and if that doesn't do the trick we can set up a "turn them all loose" commission.

  • jurydoc Feb 10, 2010

    While I appreciate those who are relying on the jury in this case, it is crucial to remember that jurors do not necessarily hear ALL relevant evidence in a case. Additionally, they very likely did not hear that the jailhouse snitch witness received a lighter sentence in return for her testimony. Remember, the judicial system in the US is NOT designed to find the "truth" of some matter. It is designed to follow procedure. If procedure is followed, then justice is presumed to have been done. If it were designed to find truth, there would be no rules excluding evidence based on how it was discovered or its inflammatory value, etc. This hearing is about finding the "truth." That is a fundamental difference between this process and the original trial. The jurors did well with what they had to go on. This hearing addresses the veracity of what they had to go on.

  • buffalobill Feb 10, 2010

    sounds like enough to at least take a second look into it. we're talkin about the rest of this guys life & the possibility of him being innocent. recent history has shown that police, procecutors & jurys can get it wrong. just sayin.

  • Chatham Adam Feb 10, 2010

    "I'm in disbelief that people are defending the trial by jury system we 'try' to rely on in this country." lilloan

    And just what model of trial system do you support? China's? Iran's? Italy's? (That American exchange student recently got a really fair trial there, right?) England's? Oh wait, they use the jury system, too. Maybe you are thinking of trial by a panel of defense attorneys assigned by the NC Academy of Trial Lawyers? Please explain yourself, lilloan.

  • lilloan Feb 10, 2010

    I'm in disbelief that people are defending the trial by jury system we "try" to rely on in this country. Tens of thousands of cases are being reviewed and these are only the select few that have the stamp of approval from both the defense review team and the prosecutorial team....yes, the product of independent review from both sides. And, in this case, both the defense review and the DA's office agreed there were substantial inconsistencies with the evidence and the manner in which it was gathered that a review was merited.

  • LuvLivingInCary Feb 9, 2010

    well, he did have a jury of his peers. i know juries make mistakes but i think they were right in this one.

  • dono422 Feb 9, 2010

    Were any of you in the courtroom listening to the evidence years ago? People just like you who listened to all the evidence and 12 people all agreed he did it. No none of you were in that courtroom. Well then give the juror's who were the benefit of having more information than any of you....and quit making assumptions based on what some attorney says now. Some of these posts are unbelievable. I hope many of you conspiracy theory nuts are never allowed to sit on a jury. Sad....

  • question_why Feb 9, 2010

    Interesting his story has changed over the years. He was out doing coke and didn't want to ruin his "high" reporting the body. She was still going to be dead the next day. Perhaps his reasoning was poor but how many of us have been in a situation where we might not postpone or delay in calling the police. 19 years with no evidence...he should be freed while this trial takes place and compensated if conviction overturned.

  • Centurian Feb 9, 2010

    Wow! His lawyer SAYS he's innocent AND it is on TV. Therefore, he MUST BE innocent!!!

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