Pricey Harrison

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Innocence Commission

The House voted 80-23 in favor of legislation (House Bill 1323), which would establish an independent commission to review the innocence claims of convicted felons. A task force examining the state’s criminal justice system recommended the formation of the panel earlier this year. The task force was formed in part because of the murder case of Darryl Hunt, who spent 18 years in prison for the slaying of a Winston-Salem woman before DNA evidence exonerated him. If the measure is approved by the Senate and signed into law, the state Supreme Court chief justice and the chief judge of the state Appeals Court would choose the eight-member panel of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The commission members would review claims and send the case on to a three-judge Superior Court panel if five of the eight members agreed. Charges would be dismissed if all three judges determine there “is clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant is innocent. A split decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court. The bill is now before the Senate for consideration, although it appears unlikely that the chamber will get to the bill before the short session.

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