After being imprisoned for nearly 40 years for the 1976 stabbing murders of a mother and daughter in North Carolina, Joseph Sledge was declared innocent by a three-judge panel.
According to Reuters, Sledge, 70, is the eighth inmate acquitted of criminal charges following reviews by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The panel made the decision on Friday (Jan. 23), reported the North Carolina media.
Sledge was sentenced to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murdering Josephine Davis and her daughter, Aileen Davis, in their Elizabethtown, NC, residence in Sept. 1976. One day prior to the report of the murders, Sledge had escaped from a nearby prison where he was serving time for stealing. He, however, had no recorded history of violence.
Sledge's attorneys revealed that their client's DNA did not match with the hairs found at the crime scene, which were believed to belong to the killer.
The North Carolina state's innocence commission decided that, after hearing Sledge's case in December, there was not ample evidence in place to prove that he was guilty of the crime. At a hearing on Friday in Whiteville, Jon David, the local district attorney, apologized to Sledge and promised to reopen the case in hopes of convicting the true killer.
"There's nothing we regret more to our values as prosecutors than to believe an innocent person is in prison," David said.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Sledge will be entitled to $750,000 in compensation from the state for his wrongful incarceration.
"I'm full up on freedom," Sledge said coyly before looking over the menu for his first meal as a freed man at Dale's Seafood restaurant.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Jonathan Drew)