$4 million settlement to Sledge finalized by Bladen County

$4 million settlement to Sledge finalized by Bladen County
72-year-old Joseph Sledge is suing the county for its role in sending him to prison for 37 years for murders he didn’t commit.

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Attorneys for Joseph Sledge filed paperwork Monday dismissing his lawsuit against the Bladen County Sheriff's Office after the county paid Sledge $4 million. Sledge spent 37 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

Sledge was convicted and later found innocent in the 1976 murder of Josephine and Aileen Davis. The mother and daughter were stabbed to death during an apparent robbery and sexual assault at their Bladen County home.

The county has paid $900,000 of the settlement to Sledge while the insurance companies paid the remaining $3.1 million as part of the settlement agreement. After expenses and attorneys' fees are paid, the remaining money will be put into a trust fund for Sledge's benefit.

Sledge's civil attorney, Burton Craige, sent WECT the following statement regarding the settlement:

For years, Joseph Sledge begged the Bladen County Sheriff's Office, the SBI, and the Columbus County Clerk's Office to release the evidence that would prove his innocence. For years they refused, defying four court orders. Finally, in January 2015, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Chris Mumma, the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, and the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, Mr. Sledge was exonerated and released, having spent 37 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Mr. Sledge then sued those who refused to produce the evidence that exonerated him. With this settlement, Bladen County has taken responsibility. Now the SBI and the Columbus County Clerk's Office need to do the same.

According to the settlement agreement, Bladen County "admit[s] no liability of any sort whatsoever, and that said payment and settlement in compromise of a disputed claim is made to terminate further controversy…"

Lawsuits filed by Sledge against the SBI and Columbus County clerk's office are still pending. Those agencies failed to locate evidence from his case in their possession so Sledge could prove his innocence through DNA testing.

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