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Gregory Taylor enjoys free time with family

A Cary man who spent more than 16 years in prison on a first-degree murder conviction filled his first weekend as a free man with family time.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Cary man who spent more than 16 years in prison on a first-degree murder conviction filled his first weekend as a free man with family time.

Gregory Taylor, 47, was convicted in 1993 of the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. A three-judge panel on Wednesday exonerated him of that crime and released him from his life sentence.

"It has been exciting.  It has been amazing really," Taylor said Sunday of his time out of prison.

Taylor set up his own Facebook page this weekend. The social networking Web site allows users to create profiles and participate in online discussions with “friends.”

One of Taylor's first Facebook friends was Thomas' sister, Yolanda Littlejohn.

"I wished her the best in seeking justice for her sister, and if there is anything I can do to help, I will,” Taylor said.

Dwayne Dail, who was wrongfully convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl in Goldsboro, has also reached out to Taylor online. Dail served 18 years in prison before DNA evidence cleared him of the crime in 2007.

Dail posted a message on Taylor's Facebook page that read, "Welcome home, man! I hope your first few days of freedom have been all that you ever dreamed."

Taylor has spent his first few days of freedom with his family. He played ball Sunday with his 23-month-old grandson, Charles.

Christine Mumma, who represented both Taylor and Dail, said the transition back into society isn't easy.

"He (Taylor) will go through a roller coaster. Right now, it is still very surreal for him. The reality hasn't set in,” she said.

Taylor's exoneration was the result of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, which had recommended his case for judicial review.

The commission, which investigates and evaluates post-conviction claims of factual innocence, is the only agency of its kind in the United States. Taylor’s was the first case referred by the commission to result in a finding of innocence.

If Gov. Bev Perdue grants Taylor a pardon, he can apply for compensation from the state Industrial Commission for $50,000 a year up to a maximum of $750,000.

Mumma said Sunday that Taylor will apply for restitution if and when the pardon is approved.

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Greg Hutchinson, Photographer
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