Innocent Man Released from Death Row

From press release:


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.

11 Responses to Innocent Man Released from Death Row

  1. Jane Kuenzel says:

    My husband too is in prison for a crime he did not commit, he has been on death row for 20 years WAKE UP AMERICA THEY ARE KILLING THESE MEN IN YOUR NAME

  2. Rick says:

    Congratulations to the family and the attorneys. As a Hickory native who knows the family and lived house away, I am very happy for them all. Now let’s see if they go after the prosecution team the way they went after Nifong in Durham. This was a much more serious case.

  3. charles says:

    When I last checked of all the people exonerated from whatever crime they were convicted of since the death penalty was reinstated by jthe US Supreme court 70-80% have been black. White America isnt upset about that, Instead people are upset about Rev. Wright’s comments. Keep on putting us behind bars, the more racists cops commit perjury with impunity, more and more chickens are going to be coming home to roost

  4. Buffy says:

    The sad truth is that the prosecution in Chapman’s case will not be held accountable to the extent that Nifong was. Here, we are talking about the life of an African American male, which has never been highly regarded by the American justice system, especially in the South. The reason Nifong was prosecuted for over zealous prosecution was he put the life and liberty of white males from a prestigious university on the line. Many black men and boys lose their lives in our corrupt justice system every day and no one gives the loss of their lives a second thought. It is a rare occassion, such as in the Chapman case, when Truth reveals itself. Only God knows how many innocent lives languish in the American prison system. Prosecutors and U.S. police are the biggest liars and thugs whose crimes outweigh those of our meanest felons.

  5. Jane Kuenzel says:

    I am so surprised that only 4 replies have been left regarding Glen Chapman’s release. This guy could have been anyone of you, or your son,brother,father,uncle etc. Is it not time for the American people to hold those that put these prisoners that are wrongly convicted accountable for their actions. Indigent prisoners who are innocent of what they are convicted of can not afford lawyers to fight their case. If lucky some prisoners have lawyers who will work pro bono. The death penalty MUST be taken off the table until there are no flaws in the system but the death penalty no matter how you dress it up is still state sanctioned murder. Is that what a civilised country really wants? I know people need to be protected but when innocent people are on the row and put to death it is not in any way acceptable.

  6. crystal says:

    This is another case which supports the fact that the death penalty should no longer exist. People do not have the right to play God and say who dies and who lives. Chapman is very lucky and was watched over to walk away as a free man. I believe the judge and all officers involved in finding this man guilty will get there punishment that God has in store for them. How would they react if there family member was on death row and lost 15 years of there lives and could have lost there life completely. I would like to ask them a few question. This world has horrible people in it. Why let it come to this? I don’t even know who Chapman is but am very emotional that he now gets to live, but imprisonment probably changed him as a person and that’s on the judge and officers. I hope they can live with themselves. I know i couldn’t.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Have you heard about the Charlotte 12?

    In the early 1990s, twelve people were found guilty of conspiracy to sell drugs based on “hearsay”, false allegations and jealousy from a police informant who received a “get out of jail” card for false testimony from an ambitious prosecutor running for office that year. There was no evidence and witnesses consisted of people the defendants never met. They never had a chance because of lack of funds, poor legal representation and exculpatory evidence that was never introduced. If this can happen to them, it could happen to any of us.

    There must be some law firm interested in justice and willing to pursue a wrongful incarceration case for the innocent. If anyone knows of a law firm with a successful track record of clearing innocent people – we would like to hear from you.

  8. L. Piegols says:

    Were any of the Charlotte 12 ever cleared of the crimes brought agains them?

  9. […] by Think for myself Ironically, I am a Democrat and I agree with the death penalty. I'm sure he will agree with you […]

  10. Michael says:

    Pedro Petrovic is an innocent man! Stop the injustice of prosecuting an innocent man.
    Send your support and prayers at

  11. Nola says:

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