From the Citizen-Times.com:
RALEIGH — A North Carolina panel that’s unique in the country determined Wednesday that a man serving a life sentence for rape should get a chance at freedom, thanks largely to fingerprints on bananas.
The state Innocence Inquiry Commission decided unanimously that enough credible evidence of innocence exists to refer the case of Willie Grimes to a three-judge panel that will ultimately decide whether Grimes should be declared innocent of the crime.
Grimes, 65, reacted to the news by saying, “That’s good. That’s very good,” according to his lawyer, Christine Mumma, director of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence. The center advocates for convicts seeking exoneration.
Two men cleared by the commission for the review were exonerated of a Buncombe County homicide last year.
A special three-judge panel freed Kagonyera and Wilcoxson in September after determining there was clear and convincing evidence they didn’t commit.
Grimes has always maintained his innocence in the rape of a 69-year-old woman in Hickory on Oct. 24, 1987, even refusing to participate in prison programs that could have helped him reduce his sentence because he would have to admit guilt and express remorse, Mumma said. “He’s got incredible spirit and is a gentle soul,” she said.
In July 1988, Grimes was sentenced to life behind bars for two counts of first-degree rape and nine additional years for one count of second-degree kidnapping. He’s serving his sentence at the Gaston Correctional Center.
Among the physical evidence presented to the commission for its review were fingerprints found on bananas in the victim’s home. The victim, who has since died, told investigators that her attacker took fruit from a bowl in the kitchen of her apartment before he left, Mumma said. Investigators found banana peels outside the house and fruit that had been moved from the bowl and left on the kitchen table, she said.
An analyst testified Monday that the fingerprints matched a different man, who had a lengthy criminal record of misdemeanors, including assault on a female. That man, Albert Turner, is living at a nursing home in Lenoir. He didn’t immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press.
A staff attorney with the Innocence Commission testified Wednesday that Turner denied that he raped the woman. But attorney Jamie Lau said Turner’s statements differed from that of other witnesses, WRAL-TV reported. For example, Turner told investigators that he had been in her apartment on several occasions with his girlfriend. The victim’s neighbor and family told the Innocence Commission that the victim never let men who weren’t relatives into her apartment. Turner also explained his fingerprints by saying his girlfriend would often bring fruit for the victim when they visited, Lau said.
Full article here….