Governor Cooper grants Sharpe Pardon of Innocence

Dontae Sharpe
Dontae Sharpe

By Cash Michaels

November 18, 2021 111:51PM
Cash Michaels
Cash Michaels

Now that Gov. Cooper has granted Dontae Sharpe a pardon of innocence for a murder he was erroneously convicted of in July 1995, and served 26 years in prison for, the question remains - why did it take so long after Sharpe was released in August 2019?

That question lingers for Sharpe, and many other falsely convicted behind prison walls who await the courts to clear them for crimes they did not commit.

“My freedom ain’t still complete. Know that our system is corrupt and needs to be changed,” Sharpe said during a Zoom press conference last Friday. “I’m thankful that I got mine and thankful that other guys are gonna get theirs. That’s what is important now.”

To say it has been one long hell for Montoyae Dontae Sharpe is an understatement.

The Charlotte native was an 18-year-old teenager when he was arrested and charged in the 1994 fatal shooting of George Radcliffe in Greenville during what police at the time alleged was a drug deal gone bad. Sharpe denied all charges, adding that he wasn’t even at the scene, but that didn’t stop a Greenville jury from convicting him of first-degree murder despite no forensic evidence tying him to the crime.

Sharpe was sentenced to life in prison despite his denials. He also rejected all deals to shorten his sentence if he admitted to the crime, saying that he deserved a new trial where he could prove his innocence.

It wasn’t until 2019 when attorneys working on Sharpe’s behalf uncovered exculpatory evidence proving that Dontae Sharpe could not have committed the crime, including evidence that false testimony was given in the original trial.

A Greenville judge released Sharpe from prison after Greenville prosecutors said they could not retry him, based on the new evidence available. Sharpe’s devoted mother and family, who had asked the NC NAACP to help in the cause, were grateful for his release.

Sharpe’s long-awaited victory was celebrated by leaders who long advocated for him even when he was still in prison.

“I am elated and overcome with joy,” exclaimed NC NAACP Pres. Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, who notably spent several Friday afternoons camped out in front of the Governor’s Mansion in downtown Raleigh protesting the delay on Sharpe being granted a pardon of innocence.

Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach, and co-convener of the national Poor People’s Campaign, was president of the NC NAACP when the civil right organization first took up Sharpe’s cause over five years ago.

He also paid tribute to Sharpe and his family for their faith and long suffering, Rev. Spearman for picking up the advocacy mantle after he left the NC NAACP, and attorney Catlain Swain and the progressive advocacy legal group Forward Together of Durham for fighting for Sharpe’s release.

Rev. Barber also suggested that Gov. Cooper meet with Dontae Sharpe “man to man” one day to talk about the true injustices of North Carolina’s criminal justice system.

"Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged," Gov. Cooper said in a statement last Friday.

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