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Willie Grimes And The Criminal Justice System 5 Years After His Exoneration

Imagine spending more than two decades in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. That's exactly the nightmare that Willie Grimes endured.

In 1987, Grimes was convicted of sexual assault of an elderly woman in Hickory. He was sentenced to life in prison. Grimes served 24 years before he was exonerated in 2012 through the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission. He’s still supportive of police, with a note of caution for officers rushing to solve a case

"Do the right thing when you’re doing your job. Quit trying to lay something on someone to get that name, or that number off the book," Grimes said.

Grimes received a $3.25 million settlement from the city of Hickory for his wrongful conviction.

Since 1989, there have been 2,124 exonerations in the U.S., according to the National Registry of Exonerations. There have been 59 exonerations in North Carolina; seven in South Carolina. A total of 26 people in the Carolinas have been exonerated of murder.

On Thursday'sCharlotte Talks, guest host Sarah Delia speaks with Grimes and Ben Rachlin, the author of a new book about Grimes called “Ghost of an Innocent Man.” She also speaks to Chris Mumma. She heads the North Carolina Actual Innocence Center, and says the high number of exonerations isn’t just because of advances in DNA testing.

Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.