120903Montgomery-BlinnSept. 3, 2012

Since its creation by the General Assembly in 2006, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission has considered more than 1,100 innocence claims, three of which resulted in exonerations.  This is from a letter I wrote the Innocence Inquiry Commission requesting that it take up the case of the Edenton Seven:

“I am fully aware that my request falls outside the letter of your mandate. It is of such importance, however, that I believe consideration by the Commission would be both just and appropriate.”

And this is from the response I received from Kendra Montgomery-Blinn, executive director:

“By law the Commission is only permitted to consider claims arising from current convictions. We cannot consider cases in which the conviction was vacated, even if the claimants were not fully exonerated.

“I am familiar with the (Little Rascals) case as I studied it both in college and in law school. In fact, I cited the case in the brief for a 2007 Commission hearing….

“I am sorry that the Commission cannot be of further assistance. The only other option I am aware of is a Gubernatorial pardon. The surviving defendants from the Wilmington 10 case have recently applied for pardons.

“Thank you for contacting the Commission and for continuing to bring attention to this important case and the subject of wrongful convictions. I am proud that North Carolina is first in the nation to have a state-run innocence commission.”

Another door to exoneration is closed, however sympathetically. Others remain.

Footnote: The hearing Ms. Montgomery-Blinn mentions grew out of a 2001 case in Pitt County. Henry Reeves had been convicted of taking indecent liberties with his 6-year-old daughter, Marquita. This passage in the Innocence Commission’s investigative statement caught my eye:

“Barbara Hardy (the child’s mother and the defendant’s wife) stated that when Marquita came out of her sessions with Dr. (Betty) Robertson, Marquita would have gum or little presents, and Marquita would state ‘Look what she gave me for getting the questions right.’

“Mrs. Hardy said that she tried to tell Dr. Robertson that Marquita was a people pleaser  and may say things just to be rewarded, but Dr. Robertson said, ‘I believe it happened, and it’s going to court.’

“It is important to note that Dr. Robertson…. provided therapy and evaluations to 23 of the children in (the Little Rascals) case….”

Still rewarding possibly-abused children for “getting the questions right”?  Did Betty Robertson learn nothing from the 23 false positives she reported in Edenton?