By Cash Michaels –
Next month will mark two years since Dontae Sharpe was finally released from prison 26 years after being convicted for a 1994 Greenville murder he did not commit.
It has been documented in court how Sharpe, then 18, was framed by Greenville police, who cajoled false witnesses to lie under oath and also misled the judge overseeing the case.
So there has been little question about Sharpe’s innocence, and yet activists say Gov. Roy Cooper has inexplicably not granted Sharpe a pardon of innocence—an official acknowledgment by the state of North Carolina that Sharpe was unjustly convicted and imprisoned for 26 years.
Gov. Roy Cooper was petitioned to grant a pardon of innocence in November of 2019.
Without that official designation, Sharpe is not eligible to collect the legislated $50,000 per year, or $750,000 maximum in compensation from the state, for his quarter-century-long ordeal.
Sharpe, now 46, along with several supporters including Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign, went to the State Capitol last Friday to ask what the holdup is.
“What else does Gov. Cooper need to know or hear to grant Sharpe what he is rightfully entitled to?” asked Barber. “[Sharpe] represents the great tradition of Black men who have had to walk with their backs straight even when the system was trying to break them and bend them,” Rev. Barber told those gathered.
Sharpe and his supporters delivered letters and petitions containing 17,000 signatures demanding a pardon of innocence for him to representatives of the governor.
“This pardon—I’m not begging for it, I’m not pleading for it. I’m just here to put Mr. Cooper and this whole system on notice that I’m going to keep right on talking. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, because there are more guys that I left in there behind me who are innocent,” Sharpe said. “There are still so many [other innocent] people left in [prison].”
Sharpe says he wants to repay his mother for all of the money she spent helping him over the 26 years he spent in prison, as well as rebuilding his life.