RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) – A man who has fought to clear his name after spending more than 26 years in prison for murder has received a pardon from Governor Roy Cooper.
Dontae Sharpe was 19 years old when he was convicted of the murder of George Radcliffe in Greenville in 1994. Sharpe maintained his innocence his entire time behind bars and declined opportunities to be released sooner.
Governor Cooper’s office said Sharpe’s pardon application was thoroughly reviewed by the Office of Clemency, the Office of the General Counsel, and the governor.
“I have carefully reviewed Montoyae Dontae Sharpe’s case and am granting him a Pardon of Innocence,” said Governor Cooper. “Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged.”
Sharpe was exonerated in August of 2019 in a Greenville courtroom after a judge ordered a new trial for Sharpe but the district attorney’s office declined to pursue the case any further. Some of the factors playing into the case included a key witness saying she in fact never saw Sharpe kill Radcliffe, and a state medical examiner testifying that the state’s theory at the time on how Radcliffe was killed was medically and scientifically impossible.
Sharpe has advocated for pardon since his exoneration and he received it two years later.
“The system here in North Carolina, time and time again, said to Dontae, “If you will just say yes to something that you did not do, we’ll consider letting you out,”” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II said. “And what I’m so glad about, is that Dontae, listening to his mama’s teaching, “Don’t ever say that you did something that you did not do.”
Barber said Dontae could have been pardoned before.
“He was exonerated by the courts,” Barber said. “And the systems in power didn’t do it, and people in power. He could’ve been pardoned after the exoneration that same day, it didn’t happen. And this is too much, North Carolina, we have got to change.”
Sharpe thanked the governor for doing what was right, but the journey to freedom isn’t over as Sharpe added there’s other men like him who seek immediate pardons.
“My freedom is still ain’t complete long as there’s still people going to prison wrongfully,” Sharpe said. “There’s still people in prison wrongfully, and there’s still people that’s waiting on pardons. So my freedom still isn’t 100%.”
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