By Erin Smith
A man who was wrongfully convicted for a double murder in Bladen County in 1976 can move forward with his case against the State Bureau of Investigation and the NC Administrative Office of the Courts. The North Carolina Industrial Commission has ruled Joseph Sledge can move forward with his lawsuit against the SBI and the NC Office of the Courts.
According to the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s ruling, which was issued earlier this month, there is sufficient evidence of negligence to allow the case against the two agencies to move forward.
The two agencies had filed a motion requesting Sledge’s lawsuit be dismissed. You can read the full motion to dismiss filed by the State here.
Sledge spent 40 years in prison for two murders he says he did not commit. The State of North Carolina paid Sledge $750,000 which is the maximum allowed by law for erroneous convictions. The Bladen County Board of Commissioners paid $4 million to settle a lawsuit with Sledge in August 2017. Read BladenOnline.com’s story here.
Sledge filed lawsuits against the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Clerk of Court’s Office in Columbus County following his release from prison. He was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Josephine and Aileen Davis in Elizabethtown on September 6, 1976. Sledge was freed after a three judge panel with the NC Innocence Commission heard exculpatory evidence which was not presented at the original trial and ruled he was wrongfully convicted.
Sledge alleges DNA testing was not available at the time he was convicted. When DNA testing was allowed to be used as in the courtroom, he pleaded with officials to have DNA that was collected from the 1976 crime scene tested;however, his pleas were ignored, according to his lawsuit.
His lawsuit also alleges that officials told him evidence was either lost or was missing from an evidence locker. The evidence was later found in a locker in the Columbus County Clerk of Court’s office, according to the lawsuit.