May 6, 2013

When last we left Junior Chandler, his former appellate defender, Mark Montgomery, had asked North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services to look into the case.

But NCPLS requires the prisoner himself to request help, and that hasn’t happened. “Like a lot of the old-timers, Junior does not think they (NCPLS) are worth much,” Montgomery says. “There was a big shake up there a few years ago, and they are now very aggressive and as effective as anybody in post-conviction cases. I am going to encourage Junior (again) to ask for their help….”

Meanwhile, he has pitched Junior’s case to Christine Mumma at the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence.

Here’s the essential “evidence of actual innocence” that Montgomery offered Mumma:

“Lathern Hensley (a.k.a. Buddy Norton) was one of the adult mentally retarded riders on Junior’s bus. He and another woman testified that Junior did stuff, and they helped. They each got probation-only plea deals. I found Hensley, but his guardian wouldn’t let me talk with him. The Actual Innocence folks (with powers granted by the state) could insist on talking with Hensley. I think he would say that he was pressured into lying on the stand.”

This is just the latest long shot in overturning Junior’s wrongful conviction, and even if the Center on Actual Innocence agrees to take the case, the process is anything but swift. As the Center’s website cautions, “We counsel patience to inmates and their families during the investigative phase as the process of gathering additional documentation; identifying, locating and interviewing witnesses; and completing many other investigative tasks can take several years.”