From press release:
INNOCENT MAN PUT ON DEATH ROW BY LYING POLICE OFFICER FINALLY SET FREE
NEWTON, NC – Today Glen Edward Chapman, who spent 15 years on North Carolina’s death row for crimes he did not commit, is walking out of prison a free man.
Chapman was sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley in Hickory. Last November Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin ordered a new trial for Chapman, citing withheld evidence, “lost, misplaced or destroyed” documents, the use of weak, circumstantial evidence, false testimony by the lead investigator, and ineffective assistance of defense counsel. Ervin also cited evidence that Ms. Conley may not have been murdered, but instead died of a drug overdose.
Catawba County District Attorney James Gaither, Jr. dismissed the charges against Chapman today.
Chapman’s lawyers, Frank Goldsmith and Jessica Leaven, are very pleased with their client’s release for which they fought long and hard. “Edward has always maintained, and we have always believed in, his innocence,” said Goldsmith. “Justice has not been served for the families of Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Conley, and we hope their deaths will be reinvestigated.” Goldsmith added, “We are extremely grateful to Judge Ervin and to Mr. Gaither for doing the right thing.”
Judge Ervin found that each of the lead detectives assigned to the cases by the Hickory Police Department had covered up exculpatory evidence that pointed to Chapman’s innocence and that was inconsistent with the State’s theory of his guilt. In addition, Judge Ervin found that Hickory Police Department Detective Dennis Rhoney had perjured himself at Chapman’s original trial, and that his testimony at the hearings conducted by Judge Ervin was “not credible.”
In his order, Judge Ervin also cited evidence presented by a forensic pathologist, Donald Jason, who found the cause of Conley’s death “undetermined.” Dr. Jason found no life-threatening injuries and suggested a possible cocaine overdose. Judge Ervin wrote that Dr. Jason’s report “strongly indicates that Terene Conley’s death was not a murder. The notion that a defendant can be put to death when no crime in fact occurred is troubling at best.”
Additionally, Judge Ervin found ineffective assistance of counsel by Chapman’s trial attorneys, Robert Adams and Thomas Portwood, for failing to adequately investigate the facts. Adams has been disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar and Portwood died of an alcohol-related illness. Portwood represented Ronnie Frye in his death penalty trial less than a year before Chapman’s trial started. Portwood admitted that he was drinking 12 shots of rum nightly during Frye’s trial. Frye was executed in 2001. Portwood was later removed from another death penalty case and entered alcohol detoxification treatment.
For more information, contact:
Frank Goldsmith (828) 230-6977 or (828) 652-3000
Jessica Leaven (919) 942-5200 or (919) 428-1924
Congratulations to Mr. Chapman and his attorneys. A victory hard-fought and long deserved.