In an historic decision, a panel of judges outside of the state’s court system unanimously voted to exonerate and release Gregory Taylor, a North Carolina man who was imprisoned for nearly 17 years for first-degree murder. In April 1993, Taylor was convicted of the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas, a prostitute found dead at the end of a cul-de-sac in Raleigh. Police arrested Taylor after finding his SUV about 100 yards from the crime scene, even though there was never any physical evidence linking Taylor to the victim. Taylor became the first person in the state to be exonerated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run agency in the United States with the power to overturn convictions based on claims of innocence. Earlier, the eight-member Commission had voted unanimously to send Taylor’s case to the next level of review before the panel of three judges.

Joseph Cheshire, Taylor’s defense attorney, said, “Out of tragedy and sadness can actually come a better world. Nothing makes our system better than the public acknowledgement that mistakes have been made.”

(A. Lamb & A. Owens, “Taylor, now free: ‘Truth has prevailed,’” WRAL News, February 17, 2010; M. Locke, “Innocence panel sets Greg Taylor free,” News & Observer, February 17, 2010). In many states, Taylor could have been executed for such an offense. See also Innocence.