We can never imagine what it must feel like to be wrongfully convicted and to spend years in prison knowing you haven’t committed the crime you are found guilty of. Many of these people are simply unable to have their voice heard and have no one to turn to. Luckily, a number of organizations offer their legal services to such people and bring a ray of hope when they decide to take their cases.
After serving 24 years for a crime he didn’t commit, 46-year-old Dontae Sharpe finally experienced freedom. He could again feel the breeze on his skin and the liberation he longed for.
Sharpe received a life sentence back in 1995 when a witness, then 15-year-old Charlene Johnson, testified she saw him killing George Radcliffe in an incident described by the police as drug deal.
Shortly after Sharpe started serving his sentence, Johnson recanted her testimony, but no one was willing to take a look at the case with fresh eyes. It just went back and forth between state and federal courts for years and Sharpe lost round after round.
And then, when it looked like everything was lost, his new attorneys at Duke Law’s Wrongful Conviction Clinic went above and beyond to make sure their client received pardon.
It took two years for their goal to be accomplished, but the hard work and the waiting paid off.
Speaking to The Post, Sharpe recalled how his attorney Theresa Newman delivered the life-changing news.
“Theresa called me and said, ‘Hey, Mr. Pardon Man.’ I was like, ‘What do you mean, “Mr. Pardon Man?”” Sharpe explained. “She said, ‘The governor just pardoned you.’ That just left me smiling on my couch and kind of awestruck.”
Newman commented the case as well and said, “No one is saying, or can say, he was released on a technicality. The technicality is that he was innocent.”
Wonderful news for Dontae Sharpe, a client of Duke Law’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, who received a pardon of innocence from NC Gov. Roy Cooper earlier today. https://t.co/YBAB4q8PnM
— Duke Law (@DukeLaw) November 12, 2021
As reported by Fox News, it was North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper who made the announcement.
“I have carefully reviewed Montoyae Dontae Sharpe’s case and am granting him a Pardon of Innocence,” Cooper said in a statement. “Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged.”
For the time he spent in jail, Sharpe received $750,000. The truth is that no amount of money can compensate for the time lost and all those special moments he spent away from his loved ones.
“This thing is commonplace now,” Sharpe told The Post. “It can happen in so many places in so many ways, especially to people of color. People look at you like an animal or a monster, and you can’t get that out of people’s minds.”
As for now, this man is focused on making up for the lost time, as well as on helping others who are in the position he once was in. “The only way forward for me is to bring about change in the criminal justice system,” he said, according to The Post. “It’s a slow process, but I’m 46, not 86. I got time to do things.”
Based on the new evidence, the judge said that in case there was a new trial, Sharpe would be found not guilty.
“I’m still in a haze, kind of,” Sharpe told Fox News. “When you’re dealing with us human beings, it can go any way, yes and no. I didn’t know what to expect. I was believing for a pardon.”
He is thankful to his new attorneys and his family, without whose love and support he wouldn’t have stayed sane.