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N.C. State Bar Says No Corruption In Disciplining Of Lawyers Who Withheld Evidence

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina State Bar said Tuesday that there was no corruption in how two attorneys were disciplined for the actions in the murder trial of Alan Gell.

Gell spent nearly a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit. Gell was released from death row when authorities discovered attorneys David Hoke and Debra Graves withheld important evidence in his murder trial. In September, a State Bar panel decided that Graves and Hoke did not intentionally withhold that evidence.

Hoke and Graves received a formal reprimand from the North Carolina State Bar, but continue to practice law. Some people, including Gell, say the reprimand is not enough.

In March, two committees reviewed the discipline and interviewed dozens of witnesses. Their goal was goal was to figure out whether the attorneys got off easy because of improper influence.

"We should report that the North Carolina State Bar prosecution of this disciplinary matter regarding these two lawyers, Hoke and Graves, fell within acceptable parameters," said Fred Moody, who served on the State Bar subcommittee.

"We did not find any corruption whatsoever," said subcommittee chairman Wade Smith. "Any misconduct whatsoever by the panel, by members of the State Bar, by anyone associated with the proceeding." The committees even called in an outside consultant who filed his own report on the case.

Smith said the investigation shed light on how cases could be better handled in the future.

"When we make our final report, we'll probably say there are some things we could have done better, should have done better, and improvements that can be made," Smith said.

Some possible changes include decreasing the workloads of State Bar attorneys who deal with disciplinary cases; getting an attorney outside the State Bar to handle high profile cases; and including witness testimony so that the public understands why decisions are made.

The final report is expected in July.

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