Governor Roy Cooper has granted a full pardon of innocence for Dontae Sharpe.
“I have carefully reviewed Montoyae Dontae Sharpe’s case and am granting him a Pardon of Innocence,” said Gov. Cooper in a statement on Friday. “Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged.”
Sharpe was wrongfully convicted of the 1994 murder of George Radcliffe of Greenville. He was just 19 when the jury sent him to prison in 1995.
He served 26 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
And while Sharpe was exonerated in 2019, he has not been eligible for compensation from the state until this official pardon.
For months, criminal justice advocates and civil rights activists including the Poor People’s Campaign, the state NAACP, Justice Served NC and the Community Success Initiative have been pressing Cooper to issue the pardon.
Rev. William Barber called Sharpe “a special man” at a Friday press conference and celebration outside the governor’s mansion.
“He has more courage than any man who’s ever set in that governor’s office or woman, and more courage than anyone who has ever set in the legislature.”
Barber said state officials should sit down with Sharpe and others who have been exonerated if they are serious about fixing North Carolina’s criminal justice system.
State NAACP president Rev. T. Anthony Spearman praised the decision and pledged to continue his own vigil on ‘Freedom Fridays’ to win pardons for other men who have been wrongfully accused and imprisoned.
“We have miles to go before we rest,” said Spearman.
With Friday’s decision, Sharpe will be eligible for $50,000 for each year of imprisonment up to $750,000.
This is not the first time Gov. Cooper has used his power to pardon.
Last December the governor granted pardons to five individuals, including Ronnie Long, who spent more than 40 years behind bars.