Gregory Flynt Taylor of North Carolina was a crack cocaine abuser convicted of killing a prostitute during a late-night prowl for drugs 17 years ago. Yesterday, says the Los Angeles Times, he was a free man, the first convicted felon in U.S. history to be exonerated by a state-mandated innocence commission. A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Taylor, 47, had been wrongly convicted in 1993.
The judges heard six days of testimony under a 2006 state law that created the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. The commission, which has subpoena power, is the only such agency in the U.S., although other states are considering similar bodies. It was established after several felons in the state were exonerated after lengthy court appeals. A jury convicted Taylor after prosecutors said blood was found on the SUV he was driving the night the woman was beaten to death. Testimony to the commission revealed that a follow-up test – showing that no blood was on the vehicle – was never passed on to the court. The hearing exposed flaws in the state's case involving eyewitness testimony and allegations by a jailhouse snitch who implicated Taylor in the killing.