Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet the Exonerated: North Carolina's Death Row Part One

Levon "Bo" Jones of Duplin County spent 13 years on death row, convicted in 1987 of robbing and killing Leamon Grady, a white man who was a well-liked bootlegger, a crime he had always denied having committed.

The prosecution's star witness was a career snitch who was paid $4,000 for her testimony. She told several contradictory stories about the killing and later recanted her story of Jones' involvement in the murder.

In 2006, a federal judge ordered Jones off death row and overturned his conviction, declaring his attorney's performance so poor that his constitutional rights had been violated.

Jones had been awaiting a retrial. The prosecutor intended to go for a life sentence this time around. Then, "his case collapsed" when a key witness recanted.

Jones is the eighth North Carolina man spared execution after charges against him were dropped.

"From the day I was locked up, August 14, 1992, I said I was innocent, until this day," Jones said. "I've always been innocent.”

Samuel A. Poole was convicted of breaking into and entering the home of Tennie A. Maness with intent to commit rape. Poole was given a mandatory death sentence. The victim lived alone in a four room brick house on Rt. 1 in Robbins, NC. Key evidence against Poole was that a button found in the victim's home seemed to match a button missing from a shirt that was found in Poole's home. In addition, Poole owned the type of gun the victim claimed she saw, and he was in the general vicinity on the day of the incident. These three items of evidence made up the entirety of the state's case.

On appeal in 1974, the NC Supreme Court ruled that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction and acquitted Poole of all charges. During Poole's death penalty trial, prosecutors failed to provide any substantial evidence of his involvement in the crime. Spicer's case was based on snitch testimony that involved a secret deal prosecutors never disclosed to the defense (when he was finally retried, the jury took 15 minutes to acquit him).

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