Three-judge panel assigned for Sledge innocence hearing
RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — Chief Justice Mark Martin has assigned a three-judge panel to convene a special session of superior court in Columbus County to hear evidence relevant to the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission’s recommendation in the case of State v. Joseph Sledge, 78. Sledge was convicted of killing a mother and her daughter in Bladen County in 1976.
Judges Thomas H. Lock, Anna Mills Wagoner, and Kevin Bridges have been assigned, according to a news release. The assignment of the three-judge panel comes after a three-day hearing earlier this month where commissioners of the Innocence Inquiry Commission unanimously concluded sufficient evidence of actual innocence merited judicial review.
Joseph Sledge has spent more than half his life in prison. Sledge escaped from a prison in Elizabethtown after an argument with another inmate in 1976. The same night, Josephine and Ailene Davis were stabbed to death.
Sledge said he escaped the prison to avoid a confrontation with another inmate. Evidence presented at the innocence hearing included newly-discovered physical evidence and retractions from a jailhouse informant who originally testified.
In 1978, the trial was moved to Columbus County, hence the location of the three-judge panel hearing also in Columbus County.
The hearing will be held in the coming months.