Local News

Exonerated Man: Work to Protect Rights of Innocent

Posted January 21, 2008 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2008 7:48 p.m. EST

— A Goldsboro man who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit spoke to law students Monday and urged them to work diligently to protect the rights of the innocent.

The Department of Correction released Dwayne Allen Dail, 39, in August after DNA evidence proved that he had been wrongfully convicted of raping a 12-year-old Goldsboro girl in September 1987. Gov. Mike Easley subsequently issued a pardon for Dail.

Dail wants other to learn from his experience, and he spoke Monday with students at the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University.

"It is a completely different world in prison," he said as the students listened intently.

"It was really touching to me," said Mary Elizabeth Robertson, 23, who said she had always seen herself as a prosecutor. "After following his story, hearing his story, maybe (my) being a defense attorney could prevent something like this from happening."

The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence helped secure Dail's release, and Campbell's law school launched its own innocence project last fall, a month after Dail's release. Students review criminal cases where appeals have been exhausted and look for evidence that might exonerate inmates.

"We started with about 20 students and paired them in teams of two," faculty adviser John Powell said. "It's not that a person is less guilty than somebody else – or there's less culpability. It's that they're actually innocent."

Six other college campuses in North Carolina also have innocence project chapters.

Dail told the Campbell students not to rush through cases. Each case file is someone's life, he said.

"(When) mistakes are made – because no system is perfect – don't take 18½ years to correct," he said.