New evidence could earn convicted murderer a new trial - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

New evidence could earn convicted murderer a new trial

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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A man who has been in prison for more than 30 years may see the inside of a courtroom again to fight for his freedom, thanks to possible new evidence.

Joseph Sledge was convicted in 1978 for the murder of Josephine Davis and the murder/rape of her daughter Aileen Davis in Bladen County. The conviction, however, came from the Columbus County Court system as it was moved there for pre-trial publicity issues.

Questions regarding the accuracy of a hair DNA test done in the 70s could be what earns Sledge a new trial.

Sledge and his attorney, Christine Mumma, filed a "motion for appropriate relief," saying this new evidence will clean him of his conviction.

"In the 70s they didn't have the testing technology we have now. So back then, a hair expert with the FBI said Sledge's hair was microscopically consistent with the hair found at the crime scene," explained Mumma.

Mumma, says current testing shows the hair found at the crime scene doesn't match her client's hair.

District Attorney Jon David said in an interview Wednesday that the evidence envelope of hair was actually found by mistake. A courthouse clerk found it lost behind a cabinet.

Another factor in the possible re-opening of this case is Herman Baker, who testified against Sledge in the 1978 trial but is now saying he lied.

Thursday's afternoon hearing in the Whiteville Court House will be a small gathering, comprised of David, defense attorney Christine Mumma, a Superior Court Judge, and possibly the victims' family.

The meeting will determine if this new evidence is good enough to move forward with the case.

David added that although the defense attorney is pushing this new evidence, she has shown interest in moving the case to the Innocence Commission first, rather than going strait to a public hearing.

The Innocence Commission is generally comprised of a group of attorneys who investigate a case. If they find it has merit, the group will send the case to a three judge panel and then to a public hearing.

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