Greg Taylor Adapts To Freedom
The state Bureau of Investigation crime lab will be the focus of a legislative committee meeting on Thursday. The Joint Study Committee on Biological Evidence was formed before an audit revealed 230 cases in which the lab misrepresented or wrongly reported blood evidence. Thirteen of those cases are in Gaston, Iredell and Cabarrus counties. Committee members will look at whether the lab should be independent from the SBI. WFAE will examine that issue tomorrow. Today, Greg Collard has a story on the man whose wrongful conviction prompted the investigation of the SBI. The first thing you notice when walking into Greg Taylor's house is the 63-inch flat screen TV mounted on a wall in his living room. "Dad bought 17 years worth of Christmas and birthday presents in this TV." That's how long Taylor spent in prison on a murder he did not commit. He always maintained his innocence. Before his conviction, a crime lab analyst tested blood evidence. Those tests came up negative, but the analyst never let prosecutors know it. So, it was used against him. "The prosecutor argued 17 times during closing arguments, why is the victim's blood on my truck?" The courts finally exonerated Taylor last February. A pardon followed, along with a $750,000 check from the state He lives in a 2,000 square-foot house in Durham he bought with four bedrooms and three bathrooms. "I really love it," he says, but it's not a total escape from prison. He looks up to the second-floor hallway that overlooks his living room. "One of the things that makes me comfortable is the high ceilings. In prison, ceilings are high. If I walk into a house where ceilings aren't high, I get claustrophobic." There are other aspects of prison that are tough to escape. Every day is a struggle. Deciding what to wear, what to eat, what to do. "So much of your life in prison is routine-oriented. No decision-making. You just go through each day being led by the nose through the same routine." His prison routine also included trying to prove is innocence, and that hasn't changed. Taylor often goes out of his way to say he's innocent. His attorney, Christine Mumma of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, says that's because there are still people who still doubt him, especially police officers and prosecutors. "In Greg's case, we hear comments. A friend of mine was at a dinner and told by a local prosecutor that Greg was guilty and just got away with," she says. Taylor also gets a lot of support. People recognize him from the news and often stop him at the mall or grocery store to offer encouragement. That means a lot. But adapting to life outside prison is a process. Christine Mumma compares it to the stages of grief. There's the initial exhilaration of freedom, reconnecting with old friends, and getting a home. "Then, the reality of being free," she says. "The things you don't know and aren't used to dealing with. The nightmares you might deal with from the experience you had. There are stages of freedom, and I think Greg has some additional ones to go through." Taylor says he not above therapy, but he's not ready for it. "I'm not looking to be happy or sad or confused. Eventually, things are going ot level out. I'm going to recognize that I'm going to be at a point in my life where I need to be content or happy. If I'm not those things, then I'm gonna have to seek to be that way. I'd date to go through all this trouble and not be happy in the end. That would suck. Is he bitter? The question elicits a quick laugh and a long pause. "I was for a while. The first couple of years were tough. I lost about 50 pounds the first six months in prison. Things weren't going well at all, but eventually you just come out of it and realize as bad as things are you can always make them worse. You try to focus on the positive and eventually all negative feelings kind of fall away." Taylor is 48 years old. He enjoys spending time with his daughter and his 2-year-old grandson. Eventually, he says he'll probably pursue a career in a high-tech field. While in prison, he earned associates degrees in computer technology and electrical engineering. Whatever he does, Taylor says his life will have focus - family, friends and criminal justice reform - starting with the SBI crime lab.