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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Smile North Carolina man freed after 17 years

    Taylor, now free: 'Truth has prevailed'

    Raleigh, N.C. — A Cary man who spent nearly two decades in prison on a first-degree murder conviction walked away from a courtroom Wednesday a free man after a three-judge panel decided he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

    "It's unbelievable," Gregory Taylor, 47, said, encircled by family, friends and media. "I mean, you think all these years what this day would be like – 6,149 days, and finally the truth has prevailed."

    Taylor was convicted in April 1993 in the 1991 death of Jacquetta Thomas, a prostitute found dead at the end of a Raleigh cul-de-sac.

    Taylor had exhausted all avenues of appeals when the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission reviewed his case and decided in September that it merited a review before the special panel.

    "I feel like I'm dreaming," Taylor's daughter, Kristen Puryear, 26, said.

    "She was 9 years old when I went to prison," Taylor said, embracing her for one of the first times as a free man. "I missed her 10th birthday, I missed her 16th birthday. … I missed her marriage. I missed the birth of my grandson. Now all of that's returned."

    "And I'm taking him home," Puryear said.

    For six days, Taylor's attorneys argued there were never any physical links between Thomas and Taylor and that despite investigators' claim of blood on Taylor's Nissan Pathfinder, there was no evidence connecting the two.

    They wrapped up Wednesday morning with closing arguments in which Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said the evidence presented in support of Taylor wasn't logical, credible or believable. (Read more about the closing arguments.)

    "I did not know what to expect," Willoughby said of the judges' decision. "I felt like it was our responsibility to present the evidence and to allow the three-judge panel to make their decision and do what they found the evidence showed."

    In asking the judges to free Taylor, defense attorney Joseph Cheshire urged them to undo a wrong and to help assure the public that the judicial system is changing to help ensure it does not happen again.

    "Out of tragedy and sadness can actually come a better world," Cheshire said. "Nothing makes our system better than the public acknowledgment that mistakes have been made."

    'Innocence points out injustice'

    Wednesday's ruling marks the first in the state's history in which a prisoner has been exonerated because of the involvement of the Innocence Commission – the only state-run agency in the country that investigates post-conviction claims of innocence.

    Taylor's case is the second case in the commission's four-year history that has gone up for an evidentiary hearing where only new evidence is considered. As of January, the commission has reviewed 634 cases, 463 of which were rejected – the others are in various stages of review or have been closed.

    At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Cheshire credited the agency and the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence for their attention to the case and for finding inconsistencies with evidence and testimony from Taylor's trial.

    "This is one of those fantastic days," he said. "We should all look at this day as a positive day for the state of North Carolina. No innocent, wrongfully accused person should ever have to spend a day in prison."

    Gov. Beverly Perdue described the commission as setting "a new standard of jurisprudence in America."

    "I believe in this Innocence Commission, and I believe the ruling today shows bad things can happen, even in the finest of systems," she said.

    Joining the likes of Dwayne Dail and Darryl Hunt – both men were wrongly convicted of separate crimes and each freed after spending 18 years in prison – Taylor said he hopes to do work to help other people in situations similar to his.

    "This is not just about innocent people, this is about injustice," Taylor said. "Innocence points out injustice."

    'It is just not over ... Now what?'

    Although Taylor's innocence has been a focus of prosecutors and defense attorneys over the course of years, Sierra Pharr, Thomas' daughter, doesn’t want people to forget her mother.

    "It makes us feel, as far as our mom's case, 'Who really cares?'" said Pharr, who was 5 years old when Thomas was killed.

    "The fact that someone who gave birth to you was taken from you as horrible and tragic as she was, it hurts," she said.

    With Taylor now free, all she wants to know is who killed her mother.

    Raleigh police declined to comment on the court's decision Wednesday evening or the status of the case but urged anyone with information to come forward.

    "It is just not over," Pharr said. "There is a lot of questions. Where is this person? Who did it? Now what?"

    "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." (The Smiths)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    lol 'even in the best of systems.'

    wont be shocked if the gov is busted smoking crack after that comment.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    This case is not making me smile at all
    I am mad as he** at the injustice to both.
    One man lost 17 years o his life and family's life.
    And has to start becoming socialized at this age?
    He should be able to sue the chit out of that system that F'd him over.
    All those hearing were heard by whom? all thos e years... morons????

    One child lost a parent who never got justice for her murder.

    I am glad this gentleman finally got out after 17 years.
    Mr. Taylor spent nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did NOT commit.
    I can not smile about that at all.....
    He was only 30 when he went in and now he is 47.

    JUSTICE in this Country??? Better then where?
    some 3rd world countries??? and only those where there is a dictatorship.
    YEA I AM MAD AS HE** this case does not make me smile.
    NOBODY WON... nobody...

    But he is free at last and for that I am grateful.
    Last edited by songline; 02-21-2010 at 11:36 PM.
    Women are Angels.
    And when someone breaks our wings,
    we simply continue to fly... on a broomstick.

    We're flexible like that.

  4. #4
    Truthful Lies's Avatar
    Truthful Lies is offline "Life shrinks and expands in proportion to one's courage" ~ Anaďs Nin
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    I'd like to see him get some money....they gave him $45? He needs hundreds of thousands.
    Where is Jennifer Kesse? www.findjenniferkesse.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013

    For 17 years, police, judges and district attorneys told me my sister’s murderer was in prison. In fact, that was the only comfort they offered me. Instead of answering my questions about my sister’s death, police patted my hand and told me, “We have the individual who murdered your sister”...

    Police did not keep us informed about their investigation or protect our privacy. Instead, the police told the media, without even talking to us, that my sister was a prostitute. From then on, that is how she was identified in news stories. Now police refuse to share any information about Jacquetta’s case. It has been 23 years since she was murdered and the killer remains free...

    I wish the Buie family peace as they come to terms with the sad truth: More than 30 years after their little girl’s body was found in a soybean field, they still don’t have the justice she deserved.

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