128th Inmate Exonerated and Freed From Death Row
Glen Edward Chapman, a North Carolina man who was sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley, was released from death row on April 2 after prosecutors dropped all charges against him.
In 2007, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin granted Chapman a new trial, citing withheld evidence, “lost, misplaced or destroyed” documents, the use of weak, circumstantial evidence, false testimony by the lead investigator, and ineffective assistance of defense counsel.
There was also new information from a forensic pathologist that raised doubts as to whether Conley’s death was a homicide or caused by an overdose of drugs.
Chapman’s lawyers, Frank Goldsmith and Jessica Leaven, were pleased with their client’s release. “Edward has always maintained, and we have always believed in, his innocence,” said Goldsmith. “Justice has not been served for the families of Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Conley, and we hope their deaths will be reinvestigated.” The state has also called for a re-opening of the investigation.
Judge Ervin found fault with Chapman’s defense attorneys at the original trial in 1994, one of whom has been disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar. The other defense attorney, Thomas Portwood, admitted drinking 12 shots of alcohol per day during a different death penalty trial. The defendant in that case, Ronald Frye, was executed in 2001.
Death Row Inmate Freed After 15 Years
Raleigh, N.C. — Glen Edward Chapman, sentenced to death for two murders in 1992, walked out of prison a free man Wednesday.
“The day is finally here. The day is finally here. It felt good. I’m still shocked, but I feel good,” Chapman said.
Catawba County District Attorney James Gaither Jr. dismissed the charges against Chapman on Wednesday.
Chapman was convicted in 1994 of the murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley in Hickory.
In November, he was granted a new trial when Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin learned detectives in the case had withheld and covered up evidence that pointed to Chapman’s innocence. Detective Dennis Rhoney had also perjured himself at Chapman’s original trial, Ervin said.
“I don’t think it gets much worse than perjury by a sworn officer of the law to put a man on death row when you know he doesn’t belong there,” Chapman’s attorney, Frank Goldsmith, said.
Ervin also noted that a forensic pathologist could not even prove that Conley’s death was a homicide.
Chapman found out just 10 minutes before his release that he was about to be a free man.
“Everybody was like, ‘You are going home.’ I still didn’t believe it until I was actually out,” he said.
Chapman said he was not angry about the time he spent in prison.
“I’m tired, but not angry. I see no need for it. … You can’t go back and give somebody 15 or 16 years back. I did my crying the first couple of years I was there,” he said.
Chapman acknowledges there are problems with the justice system, but said a system is necessary.
He said he will miss his friends on death row. Chapman said he believes some of them are also innocent.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. The question is, is somebody going to do anything about it? I was lucky,” he said.
The Hickory Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying investigations into Ramseur’s and Conley’s deaths have been reopened.
Ervin also found fault with Chapman’s trial defense attorneys, Robert Adams and Thomas Portwood. The North Carolina State Bar disciplined Adams, and Portwood was removed from another death penalty case and entered treatment for alcohol abuse.
Detective Rhoney no longer works for the Hickory Police Department.
Chapman said he is looking forward to getting to know his two sons and going to Disneyland.