Supporters of NC man freed from prison demand Cooper pardon

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Dozens of people supporting a North Carolina man who served more than two decades behind bars for a murder he said he didn’t commit gathered Friday outside the Executive Mansion as they urged the governor to formally pardon him.

Dontae Sharpe and his allies, including leaders of the state NAACP, held a vigil in front of Gov. Roy Cooper’s state residence in downtown Raleigh.

Sharpe was released from prison in August 2019 when a judge ordered a new trial for him and the prosecutor said she wouldn’t pursue a retrial. A few months later, he filed paperwork seeking a pardon of innocence, which would make him eligible for $750,000 from the state for a wrongful conviction.

Sharpe was 19 when he was sent to prison for the 1994 murder of 33-year-old George Radcliffe. He maintained his innocence throughout, and the NAACP argued for his release for years.

Cooper spokesperson Jordan Monaghan said before Friday’s event that the governor’s office has received pardon applications for Sharpe and others, and that Cooper “plans to make decisions on this and other cases by the end of the year.”

Sharpe said Friday he believes he will be pardoned, but knows there are many others who also need legal relief.

“It’s not about me. It’s bigger than me,” Sharpe said at the vigil. “I didn’t get justice, I haven’t gotten justice, but I do have the truth and they can’t change that.”

A judge ordered a new trial for Sharpe in large part after a former state medical examiner testified that the state’s theory of the shooting was not medically or scientifically possible.

The Rev. Anthony Spearman, the NAACP’s state president, began sitting outside the governor’s office on Wednesday demanding a pardon answer. Spearman then moved over to the Executive Mansion. Similar vigils are expected on future Fridays.