Charles Ray Finch
False forensic testimony and an eyewitness identification manipulated by police misconduct sent Charles Ray Finch, to North Carolina’s death row in July 1976.
Forty-three years later, he has become the 166th person in the United States since 1973 to be exonerated after having been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death over the murder of a shopkeeper during a robbery.
The 81-year-old’s conviction was overturned this May when a U.S. District Court judge ordered his release.
Finch, who is the oldest and longest-serving inmate in North Carolina to have his conviction overturned, was sentenced to die via gas chamber in 1976 for the murder of the shopkeeper, Richard “Shadow” Holloman during an attempted robbery inside the latter’s Black Creek country store on February 13, 1976.
But on the day he was sentenced, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled North Carolina’s mandatory death penalty law was unconstitutional, reports The Wilson Times.
Scores of witnesses testified during Finch’s 1976 trial that he had nothing to do with the murder, as he was nowhere near the store at the time of the incident.
But other factors, such as flawed and suggestive police lineups that relied on the unreliability of eyewitness identification would contribute to Finch’s wrongful conviction, said a report by the Death Penalty Information Center.