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NC Innocence Inquiry Commission Questions Guilt Of Winston-Salem Man In 30-Year-Old Homicide

Williams sits at a table with his hands folded in front of him.
Courtesy Ted Richardson / Winston-Salem Journal
The N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission doubts the guilt of Merritt Drayton Williams in the death of Blanche Bryson. Williams' case will now go to a three-judge panel for review.

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission believes a Winston-Salem man may have falsely confessed to a role in a homicide.

More than 30 years ago, Merritt Drayton Williams implicated himself in the death of 65-year-old retiree Blanche Bryson. The commission reviewed the case and determined there was “sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review.” The Winston-Salem Journal legal affairs reporter Michael Hewlett shares his reporting with host Frank Stasio on this complex case and explores questions around why Winston-Salem police and Forsyth County prosecutors believed the inconsistent statements Williams gave at the onset of the case.

Next year, a three-judge panel will take up Williams’ case and determine if he should be exonerated in Bryson's death. Williams was also convicted in the 1983 death of Arthur Wilson, a case in which the commission determined there was not enough evidence of factual innocence to challenge his conviction.

Laura Pellicer is a digital reporter with WUNC’s small but intrepid digital news team.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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