North Carolina Court Cites False Testimony and Official Misconduct in Granting New Trial to Death Row Inmate

Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin ruled that North Carolina death row inmate Glen Edward Chapman is entitled to a new trial based on ample evidence that he was wrongly convicted. Judge Ervin said that law enforcement officials withheld evidence, used false testimony, and misplaced or destroyed important documents that could have supported Chapman's innocence claim. The judge's order also revealed that Chapman's defense attorneys did not adequately represent him during his trial, and that expert testimony cast doubt that one of Chapman's alleged victims, Yvette Conley, was murdered at all. The testimony indicated that Conley may have died of a drug overdose. "The notion that a defendant can be put to death when no crime in fact occurred is troubling at best," wrote Judge Ervin after holding a series of evidentiary hearings examining Chapman's innocence claims.

Chapman was sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of Conley and Jean Ramseur. At first, prosecutor Jason Parker offered Chapman a plea bargain because "it wasn't the world's greatest case," but Chapman insisted that he was innocent and wanted to clear himself in court. Judge Ervin noted that among the covered-up evidence supporting Chapman's innocence claim was a witness who said he saw a man with Ramseur on the night of the murder who was not Chapman. Prosecutors also concealed a report that a jail inmate had confessed to Ramseur's murder. The judge explained that Chapman's attorneys did not have access to the report because a detective perjured himself at Chapman's original trial and his testimony during evidentiary hearings was "not credible."

One of Chapman's attorneys, Frank Goldsmith, noted, "After 14 years, Edward Chapman has finally had his day in court. . . . This is a significant step in an innocent man’s quest for justice. We cannot express the degree of our relief that Edward and the families of Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Conley have been granted a new opportunity for the truth to be told and justice to be served."

(Charlotte Observer, November 12, 2007, and Defense Attorneys' Press Release, November 7, 2007).

See Innocence and Arbitrariness.