Submitted by Chris Phillips on Mon, 10/01/2012 - 9:32pm.

NEWTON, N.C. (AP) - A three-judge panel is hearing the innocence claims of a North Carolina man who's out on parole after serving almost 24 years of a life sentence for a rape conviction. The hearing for Willie Grimes began Monday at the Catawba County courthouse with Grimes' lawyer saying a man who was charged last week with several rapes in the 1970s is responsible. In April, the state Innocence Inquiry Commission ruled that enough credible evidence, including fingerprints that aren't from Grimes, exists to refer the case to the Superior Court judges. That panel will decide if Grimes should be declared innocent. Prosecutors say the fingerprints aren't enough evidence. In July 1988, Grimes was sentenced to life behind bars for two counts of first-degree rape. He was released on parole in May. (Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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