Rally calls on Gov. Cooper to pardon Dontae Sharpe in Greenville murder case

Rally calls on Gov. Cooper to pardon Dontae Sharpe in Greenville murder case
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 12:16 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Supporters of a man who spent 26 years in prison for a Greenville murder before being freed are calling on Governor Roy Cooper to issue a pardon to him.

The rally was held Friday morning outside of the State Capitol Building, with supporters calling for Dontae Sharpe to be added to a growing list of others who have been granted pardons after serving time for wrongful convictions.

Supporters say the pardon will reaffirm the innocence proven through his court-determined exoneration, remove barriers to employment and housing, and compensate him for the emotional, mental, and physical toll that decades of wrongful incarceration played on him and his family.

“This pardon, I’m not begging for it, I’m not pleading for it, I’m just here to put Mr. Cooper, this whole system, North Carolina on notice that I’m going to keep right on talking. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing because there’s more guys left that I left in there behind me, that me and Ronnie Long left in there behind us that’s innocent,” Sharpe said during the rally.

Sharpe was convicted in the 1994 murder of George Radcliffe in Greenville and sentenced to life. Sharpe maintained his innocence, declining opportunities for release for time served.

Sharpe was freed from prison in 2019 after a judge granted him a new trial following evidentiary hearings. The district attorney’s office declined to retry Sharpe, setting him free.

The judge’s ruling came following a previous evidentiary hearing where Theresa Newman, a Duke University law professor, claims the state’s chief witness, a 14-year-old girl, lied during Sharpe’s trial.

Two months after his trial in the 90s, Charlene Johnson recanted her story, saying she only came upon the murder after it happened. After a 1997 hearing, a judge ruled that Johnson more likely was originally telling the truth, and that she made up the recantation.

Other evidence that led to Shape’s release includes testimony from an ECU forensic pathologist.

That evidence said after reviewing scene photos and Radcliffe’s autopsy, it would be “medically and scientifically impossible” for the victim to have been murdered in the way that was described by the original witness testimony that put Sharpe behind bars.

Sharpe’s pardon request was sent to the governor in 2019.

Governor Cooper’s office says the Office of Clemency has received Dontae Sharpe’s application and it is under review.

WITN’s Nikki Hauser was at today’s rally and will have reports on WITN News 4, 5, & 6:00.

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