A three-judge panel has ruled that a Gaston County man has been cleared after he was wrongly convicted in a 1987 rape.
The decision came down in a Newton courtroom Friday morning.
The judges apologized to 66-year-old Willie Grimes and victim's family saying this is a situation that should have been rectified years ago.
The panel cleared the charges of rape and kidnapping are dismissed and his name will be taken off the N.C. Sex Offender Registry.
One of the judges commended Grimes for his unwavering spirit.
Grimes was convicted in 1988 and spent 24 years behind bars after he was accused of raping a woman in October 1987.
He was paroled in May but says he wants his name cleared because "I didn't do anything wrong."
For most of the week his defense team presented alibi witnesses, expert testimony and tried to convince a three judge panel that the identification of Grimes as a suspect in the 1987 rape was a mistake.
Much of the focus has been on another man who lived in the area and has a history of assaulting women.
Albert Turner's photo was in the photo lineup when Grimes' picture was picked out by the victim but the defense team believes the victim was too shaken up to make a proper I-D.
They also pointed to fingerprints found on fruit at the victim's home. Those prints match those of Albert Turner.
Grimes says he was with others the night the woman was raped.
On Thursday the state granted limited immunity to Turner to try to force him to testify. Turner is in jail awaiting trial accused of a 1973 rape. As he entered the courthouse he told WBTV he was not involved in the case that Grimes was convicted of.
"No I wasn't."
When told his name kept coming up in arguments by the defense he responded "they will say anything.'
Since he was declared not guilty by the panel, Grimes could be eligible for compensation for wrongful incarceration.
The General Assembly approved a bill several years ago that could mean payments of $50,000 per year of incarceration up to a maximum of $750,000.
a result of other evidence presented during this hearing, the District
Attorney's Office has today asked the North Carolina State Bureau of
Investigation to open an investigation into possible perjury charges against
one of the witnesses.
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