On September 26, 1991, Greg Taylor got his Nissan Pathfinder stuck in mud approximately 100 yards from a cul-de-sac where a young woman named Jacquetta Thomas was found brutally murdered early the next morning. In April 1993, despite the lack of any evidence linking Greg to the victim, Greg was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. The prosecution’s case rested almost exclusively on the testimony of two career criminals which was given in exchange for favorable treatment, a “false-alert” on Greg’s SUV by a bloodhound, and the assertion that a spot of the victim’s blood was found in one of the wheel wells of Greg’s SUV.
After investigating the case for two years and believing in Greg’s innocence, the Center referred the case to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, so it could use its statutory authority to search for additional evidence of innocence. In September 2009, the case was presented to an eight-member panel of commissioners that unanimously found there was sufficient evidence to merit a judicial review of Greg’s case.
The Center’s Executive Director, along with attorneys Joe Cheshire and Mike Klinkosum, represented Greg before a three-judge panel in February 2010. Throughout the hearing, the defense thoroughly discredited every piece of evidence used to convict Greg. New evidence presented included the lab analyst’s bench notes from 1992 testing which had confirmed at the time of trial that the substance found on Greg’s truck was not human blood. Those bench notes were not given to Greg’s original defense attorney and, had they not been discovered by his postconviction counsel, Greg would likely have died in prison.
On February 17, 2010, the three judge panel exonerated Greg, finding he had proven his innocence by clear and convincing evidence after wrongful incarceration for almost 17 years. Greg was the first person exonerated through the Innocence Inquiry Commission process and his case, along with the other successful cases of the Innocence Inquiry Commission process, has inspired other states to consider forming similar Commissions.
Greg Taylor’s Case in the Media
After 16 years in Prison, a Whole New World (CNN) – May 21, 2010
Award-Winning Documentary about Greg Taylor’s Case
In Pursuit of Justice covers the precedent-setting case of Greg Taylor – the first person to be proven innocent through a groundbreaking legal reform known as the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The Commission is a unique, independent, state-funded agency that reviews post-conviction claims of innocence if a prisoner has exhausted all other legal avenues. It is the only one of its kind in the country and can serve as a model of reform for other states.
Greg’s story is one of wrong turns, bad luck, and a loving, supportive family who never stopped believing in his innocence for 19 years. It is also the story of the incredible people who have worked tirelessly to reform North Carolina’s criminal justice system – reforms that led to securing Greg’s freedom.
This thought-provoking documentary illustrates several of the causes of wrongful convictions and serves as a great discussion starter for classes of all kinds, community/church groups, and criminal justice reform advocates. It is equally important for every average citizen to see this film, as each is a potential “juror” in our criminal justice system.