Gregory Taylor recently became the first person exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run agency in the country with the power to overturn convictions based on claims of innocence. Taylor had been convicted of the brutal murder of a prostitute, a crime for which he might have been executed in many states. In 1993, prosecutors relied partly on a lab report indicating that blood was found in Taylor’s SUV, which was found parked near the victim’s body. The lab report, however, did not mention that a second test came back negative for the presence of blood. The results of the second test were filed away in informal notes that did not surface until Taylor’s case came before the Innocence Commission. Even these notes would not have been discovered if it were not for Assistant District Attorney Tom Ford, who prosecuted Taylor’s case in 1993. Ford said state investigators did not tell him until July 2009 about the negative second blood test. He subsequently told the Commission investigators where to find the bench notes, saying that he felt it was his duty to do so. Taylor was cleared of all charges after other parts of the state’s case also were discredited, and he was freed after spending nearly 17 years in prison.

The Taylor case has led Attorney General Roy Cooper to order a review of the state crime lab led by two former assistant directors of the FBI.

(M. Waggoner, “Landmark exoneration in NC almost never happened,” Washington Post, March 17, 2010). See also Innocence and Arbitrariness.