Documentary sheds light on N.C. innocence panel
Photo by Tevin Stinson
BY TEVIN STINSON
More than 100 people gathered inside the Hanesbrands Theatre to watch a documentary on the trials and triumphs of Greg Taylor, a North Carolina man who spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The film titled “In Pursuit of Justice” documents the night of September 29, 1991, when Taylor got his Nissan Pathfinder stuck in a ditch less than 100 yards away from the lifeless body of Jacquetta Thomas, who was brutally murdered earlier that night. Despite having no physical evidence tying him to the crime in 1993, Taylor was sentenced to life in prison.
Through one-on-one interviews with Taylor, family members, attorneys and others involved in the case the film directed by Gregg Jamback and Jamie Huss gives viewers an inside look at what it takes to overturn a life sentence here in North Carolina.
After spending more than a decade behind bars and after three appeals had been turned down, in 2004 Taylor reached out to the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission (NCIIC), which then connected him with the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, a non-profit that looks to exonerate innocent people across the state.
That same year, Chris Mumma joined the team fighting for Taylor’s freedom, and in 2010 Taylor was released from prison. While appearing before a panel of three judges, Mumma and her team of lawyers proved Taylor’s innocence by revealing that a stain found on Taylor’s truck was not blood, as the prosecutor had argued during the original trial.
When discussing the film with the audience, Huss said she and Jamback felt it was important to document the story.
“What’s important to us is not just Greg’s story but, the process that we have only here in North Carolina,” said Huss. “For all the things we don’t have going right, we do have this right.”
According to Huss, North Carolina leads the country in criminal justice reform. She mentioned the Innocence Inquiry Commission has helped free 13 innocent men, including Taylor and the late Darryl Hunt, a Winston-Salem man who spent 19 years in jail for the stabbing death of Deborah Sykes.
“This process is something the entire country needs to know about,” Huss said.
With the seventh anniversary to the day he was set free quickly approaching, Taylor said he is truly humbled by everyone who fought for his freedom.
“I’m grateful for everything they’ve done for me,” he said. They’ve led me to this place I’m at today. It’s just amazing how my life has changed since February 2010 and truly humbled by it all.”
Following the viewing of the film on Jan. 5, several people said they were happy to see that N.C. is leading the way when it comes freeing innocent people. According to the film, since the late 1990s, 26 states have adopted programs similar to the Innocence Inquiry Commission.
“It feels good to know that there are people fight-ing against injustice here in North Carolina,” said Robin Simmons of Winston-Salem. “I’m happy for Mr. Taylor and I hope this program can help free others in the future.
Although Jamback and Huss are touring the state showing the documentary to received feedback from viewers, “In Pursuit of Justice” is only 85 percent complete.
For more information on the documentary, visit inpursuitofjusticefilm.com.