Charles Ray Finch left North Carolina’s Greene Correctional Institution in a wheelchair last Thursday, 42 years after first being sentenced to death for a crime he was wrongfully convicted of committing. Finch was released after a unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found in January that the “totality of the evidence, both old and new, would likely fail to convince any reasonable juror of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Finch was sentenced to death in 1976 for the killing of shop owner Richard Holloman during a robbery. The sentence was commuted to life a year later because N. Carolina’s death penalty statute was found to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. (It was subsequently re-written.)
But the evidence used to convict Finch was problematic, especially a lineup, in which Finch was the only suspect forced to dress in the same type of jacket an eyewitness described the perpetrator wearing.
Incredibly enough, Finch is not free, however. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, because “The U.S. Supreme Court has never recognized innocence alone as grounds to overturn a conviction, so the appeals court could not set Finch free.” Instead, prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to re-try him.
We can only hope they’ll do the right thing. and let this innocent man, who lost 42 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit, go home and live the rest of his life in peace.
(Photo courtesy WLOS)