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NC Man Exonerated By State Innocence Commission

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By Kamika Dunlap on February 19, 2010 10:10 AM

Gregory F. Taylor was exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of killing a prostitute. 

In addition to the vindication the North Carolina man may feel, Taylor also became the first man exonerated by a state mandated innocence commission.

According to the New York Times, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is the only agency of its kind in the country.

Taylor's case was the first won by the commission made up of three judges who unanimously ruled he had been wrongfully convicted.

Taylor was freed after 17 years in prison or 6,149 days according to his last count.

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission was formed in 2006 under a state law to investigate claims of innocence by convicted felons. Previous to that, the appeals process for wrongful conviction claims was delayed, costly and weaken overall public confidence in its justice system.

Taylor's case was only the second to reach the three-judge panel, which is appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. So far, the commission has reviewed 634 cases.

The commission is charged with providing an independent fact-finding forum for credible claims of innocence.

North Carolina is the first state to create an Innocence Inquiry Commission. In most states, convictions are usually overturned only by governors and pardon boards, or occasionally by judicial review.

In addition, states use DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted prisoners.

As previously discussed, James Bain spent more time in prison than any of the 245 inmates previously exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide. But after 35 years and his fifth request to use DNA evidence he was set free. Lawyers from the Florida Innocence Project  also helped Bain win freedom.

As for Taylor, his case is an example of how innocence commissions can work.

The commission's executive director says the case will now be used in legal text books.

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