After 40 years in prison, 66-year-old James Blackmon is exonerated for murder he didn’t commit in N. Carolina

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It has taken 40 long years but Mr. James Blackmon, now 66, has tasted freedom. He was released from prison and charges against him dismissed after the state deemed it proper to grant him a new hearing.

Accused of a 1979 death of a student at St. Augustine’s campus, Blackmon was convicted in 1988 of the murder of Helena Payton at what is now Saint Augustine’s University. Payton was fatally stabbed in her neck in a dorm bathroom in 1979. The case went cold until detectives received an anonymous tip in 1983 which has now shown to be incorrect.

Blackmon’s case came before the judges through the work of the North Carolina Innocence Commission, which ruled in November that there was enough evidence of Blackmon’s innocence to warrant a judicial review.

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James Blackmon
James Blackmon

ABC News reports both sides agreed Blackmon was mentally ill with a low IQ but crucially the three-judge panel determined that he had proven that he was innocent of the murder. The judges signed a paper dismissing the conviction and ordering that Blackmon be released from prison as soon as possible.

Disheartening as Blackmon’s case has shown, sadly he is not unique as a good number of other males with African ancestry have found themselves serving long periods at various prisons in the United States for crimes that were foisted on them even when they had no idea.

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