Monday, August 8, 2011
“Race played no role” in Governor’s denial of pardon for Daniels
Click Link below to view interactive flog:
Script of flog
On Friday, September 9, 2008, Erick Daniels, at 22 years of age was freed after more than seven years of incarceration after being convicted of a September 21, 2000 armed robbery. His road to freedom had begun in late 2004, when attorney Carlos Mahoney began to appeal Daniels’ conviction. Despite several unsuccessful appeals, including a setback in January 2007 when the state’s Court of Appeals denied his case, Mahoney was undaunted and persevered.
Then in September 2008, state prosecutors, knowing they had a pitifully weak case against Erick Daniels, offered an Alford plea deal… wherein he would deny involvement in the crime but acknowledge evidence existed for his conviction in exchange for his immediate release. Had he accepted the plea deal, Daniels would forever be branded a felon. With faith in his attorney, Daniels refused to accept the deal… he would take his chances with an appeals hearing in hopes of getting a new trial.
During two days of the hearing, in which attorney Mahoney dissected the prosecutors’ case against Daniels like a skilled surgeon, the evidence to support Daniels’ innocence was so substantial and overwhelming, that Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson took the initiative to dismiss the charges and proclaiming that Erick Daniels was innocent.
Judge Hudson specifically stated, “I would order a new trial if I were satisfied that this defendant committed this crime and the state could prove it. I have no confidence the defendant committed these charges.”
Lending support to Judge Hudson’s assessment was the fact that in 2003 Daniels submitted to a polygraph tests in which he denied robbing the victim, denied pointing a gun at the victim and denied being present when the robbery took place. According to polygraph examiner Steve Davenport, “It is my opinion there were no reactions indicative of deception to those relevant questions.”
Not only that, but a young man who fit the description of the armed perpetrator and had a history of committing armed robberies, had confessed to his attorney that he was responsible for the September 2000 armed robbery for which Daniels was convicted.
Shortly after Daniels was proclaimed innocent by the judge and released, Durham attorney Gladys Harris began filing a petition for a pardon of actual innocence on behalf of Erick Daniels. Such a pardon was a prerequisite for him to be able to receive financial compensation for his years of wrongful incarceration… as legislated at the North Carolina General Assembly.
In 2010, attorney Carlos Mahoney met with Eddie Speas, Will Polk, and Barry Jenkins, and he requested that Governor Perdue grant Daniels’ petition and issue a pardon of actual innocence. To assist the governor, Mahoney even provided a notebook containing pleadings and trial transcripts.
Apparently in February 2011, the North Carolina Office of Executive Clemency denied a pardon of actual innocence for Erick Daniels, but failed to notify him or his attorney. It was only in mid-April 2011 that Daniels accidentally uncovered the panel’s decision. An article titled, “Erick Daniels denied pardon,” in the April 20, 2011 edition of the “Independent Weekly” brought this to my attention, as all other mainstream media outlets ignored the story.
Erick Daniels’ petition for a pardon was not the only one presented to Governor Perdue… she also received one from Gregory Flynt Taylor.
I had been a staunch supporter of Gregory Taylor since 2009 when I first learned through the media of his questionable conviction for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Like many others, I admired and was in awe of Greg Taylor’s integrity, principles, courage and ethics. Rather than falsely implicate an African American man, who Greg knew to be innocent, at the urgings of prosecutor Tom Ford in the Thomas murder case, Greg refused, and as a result spent seventeen of his best years behind bars. He was facing life in prison.
Gregory Taylor, who was found innocent of the murder by a unanimous three panel judge during mid February 2010, immediately sought a pardon from the governor after his exoneration.
When a pardon for Taylor was not forthcoming in what I considered a timely manner, I hand delivered a letter to Governor Perdue on April 12, 2010. I questioned the delay in her response to his request for a pardon. No reply was forthcoming.
The following month, on May 21, 2010, I hand-delivered another letter to the Capitol building for the governor. Again, I received no response. However, shortly thereafter an official pardon was granted by Governor Perdue.
On June 1, 2011, a little over a month following the “Independent Weekly” article about Daniels’ petition for a pardon being denied, I hand-delivered a letter to the governor. I pointed out how Erick Daniels had been unjustly convicted, served seven years wrongly incarcerated, and how he, like Gregory Taylor, had been declared “innocent” by a judge or judges.
Finally, I asked the governor to explain why the Office of Executive Clemency denied Daniels’ request for a pardon. I did not hear from her office.
On July 13, 2011, roughly six weeks after the previous letter, I hand delivered another for the governor. In it, I praised her for granting the pardon to Gregory Taylor, although belatedly. Furthermore, I specifically expressed that I did not feel that because Erick Daniels is an African American that he should be disqualified from being given a pardon. I expressed to her that unless I received an explanation for the denial of Erick Daniels’ petition, I would conclude that the decision to deny his request for a pardon was racially based. To this letter, I did receive a reply from the Office of the Governor.
On July 27, 2011, I received a letter from the governor’s office dated July 26th. It was written by her general counsel Mark A. Davis. He vigorously denied that race played any role in Governor Bev Perdue’s decision to deny Erick Daniels a pardon… that it was based on results of their extensive investigation that failed to prove his innocence. Then he stated that “confidentiality concerns” prevented him from sharing details of this investigation with me.
I have many serious problems with Mr. Davis’s reply. First he suggested that the Governor’s Office conducted an extensive investigation. I don’t believe it. If they did, in fact, investigate Daniels’ case as he claimed, then it was an extravagant waste of taxpayer dollars.
Secondly, he averred that due to “confidentiality concerns” he was unable to share results of the investigation. The confidentiality concerns excuse is commonly used to obstruct and to make opaque and keep from the public information that is damaging to officials, be they in the corporate or governmental spheres. However, what I find most hypocritical is the illusion that Governor Bev Perdue places a high value on “transparency.”
Thirdly, and most importantly, the governor decided that the findings of their alleged investigation did not support Erick Daniels’s innocence. By such a statement it is inferred that she approached the Daniels’ case with a presumption of guilt… this, after Judge Hudson dropped the armed robbery charges against Daniels and proclaimed that he was innocent.
What the governor fails to understand is the basic concept found in Civics 101 called the separation of powers. The governor, like the attorney general, belongs to the executive branch of government. Judicial decisions are handed down by those belonging to the judicial branch of government. Proclamations of “innocent” or “guilt,” whether made by the governor or the attorney general, carry no legal weight.
Attorney General Roy Cooper’s April 11, 2007 promulgation in which he declared the three Duke Lacrosse defendants “innocent” is as invalid and irrelevant as Governor Perdue’s claim that Erick Daniels is “guilty” of armed robbery.
To summarize, the entire gist of the governor’s letter was that race played no role in the governor’s decision to deny Daniels’ request for a pardon of innocence, and that the secret extensive investigation they conducted contradicts the ruling of Judge Hudson… but they can’t divulge results of their investigation due to confidentiality concerns.
This letter from the Office of the Governor actually hurt my feelings as my intelligence was justifiably insulted. Mr. Davis’s letter profoundly failed to convince me that the denial of a pardon for Erick Daniels was not based on racism.
The onus remains on the governor to come up with another excuse for denying Daniels a pardon, or to do the right thing by reversing the February 2011 decision, and granting Erick Daniels a pardon of innocence.