North Carolina Court Frees Inmate on Death Row for 14 Years

After 14 years on death row, an inmate whose murder convictions were thrown out because investigators withheld evidence will soon be freed, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Attorney Frank Goldsmith said prosecutors have dropped murder charges against 40-year-old Glen Edward Chapman, whose convictions were thrown out last year.

"I'm feeling elation," Goldsmith said as he was driving from Asheville to meet Chapman at the state's Central Prison in Raleigh. "But in addition to the joy and the elation I feel, I also feel anger — anger for how long this wrong took to be righted."

Messages left seeking comment from Catawba County prosecutors were not immediately returned. Keith Acree, a spokesman for the state Department of Correction, said he did not know whether Chapman would be freed Wednesday but that officials were working with the courts to finalize his release.

Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin ruled in November that Chapman was offered ineffective assistance from his original attorneys and that evidence was lost, destroyed or withheld. He also said the lead detective in the case withheld evidence.

Chapman was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in 1994 for the killings of Betty Jean Ramseur, 31, and Tenene Yvette Conley, 28.

The women's bodies were discovered within a week of one another in August 1992. Both had been left in vacant houses a quarter of a mile apart in Hickory, about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Ervin concluded that detectives failed to reveal that a jail inmate was overheard admitting that he killed Ramseur. He said investigators also didn't tell prosecutors that a witness said he saw a man who wasn't Chapman shortly before a fire at the house where Ramseur's body was discovered.

The judge also ruled that detectives failed to report witness statements that indicated Conley was seen alive in the days after prosecutors said she was dead.