Former Chief Justice Who Pushed For Innocence Process Dies

Sep 12, 2019

North Carolina State Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. speaks on the phone in his office, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006 in Raleigh, N.C., on his final day in the office. Lake, who turned the mandatory retirement age of 72 for judges on Monday, was required by law to step down as chief justice by Tuesday. Associate Justice Sarah Parker will be officially sworn in as his successor next week.
Credit Karen Tam / AP

The conservative North Carolina chief justice who led the way for the state's unique innocence process has died at age 85.

His son-in-law, Tom Neal, said I. Beverly Lake Jr. died Thursday at the retirement center where he lived.

Lake was chief justice when a string of high-profile wrongful convictions in North Carolina caught his attention. In 2002, he convened a commission to review how innocent people are convicted and how to free them.

That led to the establishment of the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, whose work has resulted in exonerations of 12 people.

Chris Mumma is executive director of the private, nonprofit N.C. Center on Actual Innocence. She says Lake had a courage to do the right thing that few politicians have.