DURHAM, N.C.--()--After proclaiming his innocence for nearly 25 years, Willie Grimes’ name was finally cleared when he was declared actually innocent of the 1987 rape of Mrs. Carrie Elliott today.
“lost faith in the justice system after he was convicted of a crime he did not commit, and eventually he put his faith in Jehovah…It is our hope that through this process, Mr. Grimes can renew his faith in the justice system.”
This past week in Newton, North Carolina, a three-judge panel presided over the exoneration hearing of Willie James Grimes, who served 24 years in prison for rape. During those 24 years, Mr. Grimes never once wavered from his claim of innocence, filing post-conviction motions in State and Federal courts and contacting numerous agencies for assistance with his claim.
After four days of evidence, closing arguments were scheduled for the morning of October 5, beginning with District Attorney Jay Gaither. Mr. Gaither stated that, after hearing the evidence, he could not in clear conscience argue against the innocence of Mr. Grimes, and he extended an apology on behalf of the State of North Carolina.
Christine Mumma, the Executive Director of the NC Center on Actual Innocence and Mr. Grimes’ lead attorney, started working on Mr. Grimes’ case in 2003 and told him in 2006 that she would “never give up.” During closing remarks, she stated that Mr. Grimes “lost faith in the justice system after he was convicted of a crime he did not commit, and eventually he put his faith in Jehovah…It is our hope that through this process, Mr. Grimes can renew his faith in the justice system.” Mr. Grimes was also represented at the hearing by attorney Robert Campbell of Taylorsville, North Carolina.
At the conclusion of the proceedings, Judge David Lee paraphrased Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech, saying, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. Thank Jehovah, Willie Grimes is free at last!”
The three-judge panel found unanimously to exonerate Mr. Grimes and ordered that he be removed from the Sex Offender Registry immediately.