Wrongly convicted of murder in North Carolina – Free after 37 years in prison

Is he Black? You betcha!

A North Carolina man is free after nearly four decades in prison after forensic evidence proved he was not responsible for the murder of two women.

Joseph Sledge, 70, was convicted on two counts of second-degree murder in the 1976 stabbing deaths of Josephine Davis, 74, and her daughter, 57-year-old Aileen Davis, who was also sexually assaulted.

Sledge was 37 years into a life sentence when a three-judge panel voted unanimously on Friday that Sledge was innocent of the crime.

Forensic evidence that had been lost for years was discovered by a court clerk who was cleaning out a high shelf of a vault. A hair sample within — found on one of the bodies and believed to belong to the attacker — was not Sledge’s, nor were fingerprints and DNA collected from the scene, according to forensics experts.

Last year a key witness whose testimony led to Sledge’s conviction had recanted his evidence, saying he had been promised leniency in a separate case and was coached by police on what to say.

No surprises there.

Sledge left court after being freed Friday and headed to Georgia to live with his brother. He told reporters he was looking forward to relaxing and sleeping in a real bed, and that he would likely “get in a pool of water and swim.”

No apology from the lawmen who coached the key witness how best to lie. No apology from the state of North Carolina about their consistent history of locking up – or executing – Black men who were easy targets for legal lynching.