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'Let Me Be The First In The State Of North Carolina To Apologize To Mr. Sledge'

Joseph Sledge and his attorney Christine Mumma 1/23/15
Jorge Valencia
Joseph Sledge and his attorney Christine Mumma 1/23/15
Joseph Sledge, photographed at Pamlico Correctional Institution in Bayboro, N.C. Thursday, February 28, 2013.
Joseph Sledge

A man held in a North Carolina prison for most of his life was released on Friday, after a special panel found he had been wrongfully convicted of a double murder in 1976.

Following a brief hearing in Columbus County, a specially appointed three-judge panel found Joseph Sledge had proven he was innocent of the stabbing deaths of a mother and her adult daughter in neighboring Bladen County.

Sledge, 70, had maintained his innocence throughout his 37 years in custody, waging an often-lonely battle to get someone in the courts to pay attention to his claims. Since 2003, his efforts had been delayed because clerks in Bladen County couldn’t find an evidence envelope containing crime-scene hair that, once it was discovered on a top shelf of an evidence vault, showed Sledge had not been the perpetrator.

“Patience is the virtue,” Sledge said after his release.

Sledge is the eighth person to be exonerated after his case was investigated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run investigative agency of its kind. The commission has reviewed about 1,500 cases since its creation in 2007.

  • Journalist Mandy Locke has been writing about Joseph Sledge's case for the past year. This article details his entire ordeal.
  • WUNC's Frank Stasio talked with Locke prior to the hearing. Listen to their conversation here.
  • The News & Observer has a timeline that tracks the progress of Joseph Sledge's fight for freedom. Look at the timeline here.


Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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