Homicide

North Carolina judges find 70-year-old man wrongly convicted 4 decades ago, order him freed

  • Joseph Sledge, center, talks with his sister Barbara and brother Oscar during a break as a three-judge panel takes up his claim of innocence in Whiteville, N.C., on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. The panel planned to consider whether Sledge was wrongfully convicted nearly four decades ago of killing a mother and daughter in North Carolina. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)

    Joseph Sledge, center, talks with his sister Barbara and brother Oscar during a break as a three-judge panel takes up his claim of innocence in Whiteville, N.C., on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. The panel planned to consider whether Sledge was wrongfully convicted nearly four decades ago of killing a mother and daughter in North Carolina. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)  (The Associated Press)

  • Joseph Sledge appears in court, in Whiteville, N.C., Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, as a three-judge panel convenes to take up his claim of innocence. The panel planned to consider whether Sledge was wrongfully convicted nearly four decades ago of killing a mother and daughter in North Carolina. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)

    Joseph Sledge appears in court, in Whiteville, N.C., Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, as a three-judge panel convenes to take up his claim of innocence. The panel planned to consider whether Sledge was wrongfully convicted nearly four decades ago of killing a mother and daughter in North Carolina. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)  (The Associated Press)

  • Joseph Sledge arrives at the Dempsey B. Herring Court House Annex in Whiteville, N.C., Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, as a three-judge panel convenes to take up Sledge’s claim of innocence.  The judges were appointed by the state Supreme Court after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission found enough evidence of  Sledge's innocence to recommend a judicial review. Sledge, 70,  was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)  MANDATORY CREDIT

    Joseph Sledge arrives at the Dempsey B. Herring Court House Annex in Whiteville, N.C., Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, as a three-judge panel convenes to take up Sledge’s claim of innocence. The judges were appointed by the state Supreme Court after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission found enough evidence of Sledge's innocence to recommend a judicial review. Sledge, 70, was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman) MANDATORY CREDIT  (The Associated Press)

A three-judge panel in North Carolina has ruled that a 70-year-old man was wrongly convicted in the stabbing deaths of a mother and daughter nearly four decades ago.

The judges ruled Friday that Joseph Sledge was innocent and should be freed from prison. They heard from a DNA expert who said none of the evidence collected matched Sledge.

District attorney Jon David told the judges the justice system had made a mistake and he would reopen the case into the slayings of Josephine Davis and her daughter, Aileen. A day before the September 1976 killings in Elizabethtown, Sledge had escaped from a prison work farm.

Sledge is the eighth person exonerated after the state set up the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, the only state-run investigative agency of its kind.