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Bill Could Make it Harder for Accused to Prove Innocence

March 29, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - Men and women in North Carolina accused of crimes they did not commit, may have a more difficult time proving their innocence with new legislation currently before the state assembly. The legislation would take away laws that protect defendants when law enforcement fails to turn over evidence, such as negative blood test results.

At age 29, Greg Taylor was married to his high school sweetheart and raising his eight-year-old daughter in Cary. Then, a false conviction of first degree murder sent him to prison for 17 years until changes in state laws enabled him to get access to the prosecutor's files and be able to prove his innocence.

Taylor, like others, is alarmed at a bill that would, he believes, roll back some of the progress made in recent years.

"I always felt that in the files there would be information. When both sides have access to all the facts, then more rational decisions can be made."

Taylor was released in February of 2010 with the help of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. He's rebuilding his life and fighting for the rights of others still serving time for crimes they did not commit.

Now 49, Taylor is working hard to catch up on everything he missed.

"I worked in telecommunications and had never used a cell phone. The world passed me by, but the most hurtful out of all of that was missing my daughter grow up."

In recent months, more than 300 cases have been uncovered where the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation failed to turn over the results of blood tests that came back negative. Seventy-five new cases were uncovered in the last week.

Supporters of the bill say current law makes district attorneys responsible for things they don't know exist.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC