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‘Still In a Haze’: North Carolina Man Can Finally Seek Compensation from State More Than 2 Years After He Was Freed Following 24-Year Prison Stint for Wrongful Conviction

On Friday, Nov. 12, a North Carolina man imprisoned for almost a quarter-century for murder was pardoned by the governor. Dontae Sharpe is now declared innocent of a crime he spent decades declaring he did not commit.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who took office in 2017, said he carefully reviewed the case and is now wiping clean Sharpe’s record since it has been determined that he did not commit the crime.

Dontae Sharpe celebrates news of his pardon. Screengrab WNCT

In April 1994, a 19-year-old Sharpe was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of a white man named George Radcliffe, who was a found shot to death in his pickup truck two months earlier in a mostly Black neighborhood in Greenville, North Carolina.

Police concluded that Radcliffe had been killed in a drug deal gone bad. A 14-year-old girl named Charlene Johnson who had recently been released from psychiatric ward would give a statement to police that she actually saw Sharpe kill Radcliffe.

The following year she testified against sharpe, and largely on the basis of this testimony he was convicted and received a life sentence. 

However, just weeks later Johnson recanted her statement and said she was not at the location where the crime actually took place. She claimed she fabricated the story based on information she was given by the investigators. 

Despite this recantation, it would be 24 years before a judge would vacate Sharpe’s sentence in 2019. The Pitt County District Attorney’s Office followed the judge’s action by dismissing his charge of murder on August 22, 2019.

Sharpe’s attorney Theresa Newman, the co-director of Duke University’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, said then, “It was a too-long journey for Dontae Sharpe. We can lament that at some point, but right now, it’s a time of great joy to restore him to his family and his community.”

In his statement last week, Gov. Cooper said, “Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged.”

Now, the governor has fully restored him by pardoning him, and Sharpe’s legal team can now apply for up to $750,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction.

When asked how he is receiving the news, Sharpe stated that he is still processing the judge’s decision. He said to the press, “I’m still in a haze kind of. When you’re dealing with us human beings, it can go any way, yes and no. I didn’t know what to expect. I was believing for a pardon.”

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