Botched lineups and erroneous forensic evidence played major part in wrongful conviction
An 81- year- old man once sentenced to death has been freed after 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, the Death Penalty Information Center reported.
Charles Ray Finch, was released from Greene Correctional Institution in Maura, North Carolina on May 23, 2019. The release was ordered by federal District Court Judge Terrence Boyle five months after a unanimous decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found Finch “actually innocent” of murder.
“I knew the miracle was going to happen,” Katherine Jones-Bailey said. Speaking about her father’s release. “I just didn’t know when.”
Bailey was 2 years old when her father was convicted of murdering a grocery store clerk during an attempted robbery and sentenced to death in 1976, under North Carolina’s then mandatory death sentence statue, the news release noted.
The North Carolina Supreme Court vacated Finch’s death sentence and sentenced him to life in prison in 1977.
In Finch’s initial trial, a state forensic witness testified that the victim died from two shotgun wounds, and a shotgun shell was found in Finch’s car. A store employee told police that the killer fled the scene wearing a three-quarter length jacket, Finch was later identified in three different lineups.
In 2013 the state’s Chief Medical Examiner testified that the victim had been killed by a pistol, not a shotgun.
Finch’s defense team discovered photos that showed Finch was the only person in the three lineups wearing a coat, disputing Chief Deputy Tony Owens’ claimed that he had put the jacket on another man in the line-up, the story noted.
“That’s one of the highlights at the evidentiary hearing,” said Jim Coleman, Finch’s long-time lawyer and the director of the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic. “We were able to expose that Owens had lied about the line-up and he had dressed Ray in a coat and he was the only one wearing a coat in the line-up,
“We feel an enormous sense of vindication,” Coleman said “We have students who work their hearts out on these cases.”