Lacking evidence, recanting witness suggests another look necessary in Sharpe conviction

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It happened more than two decades ago. WNCT originally covered the murder case in 1994.

“Police found Radcliff shot to death in his pickup truck in West Greenville in February,” reports WNCT original coverage. “At the time, they had no idea who did it or why but they say with help from witnesses they’re now able to piece together what happened that night.”

On February 11, 1994, police say a then 19-year-old black man killed George Radcliff.

“Mr. Ratcliff was killed by Dontae Sharpe,” reports an officer in file video.

Sharpe has maintained his innocence since the day he was arrested. He even denied a plea deal offered by the Pitt County District Attorney’s Office.

“All this is a mistake,” said Dontae Sharpe during an interview when he was first arrested. “They got me for shooting him. I wasn’t nowhere around. I don’t even have a gun.”

His family has fought to prove his freedom since his arrest but they have constantly been turned away.

“We tried to take witnesses down there and Carolyn Melvin kicked them out of the police station and said that she didn’t want to hear anything they had to say,” says a family member after a court hearing.

Appeal after appeal and still no change. The Duke Law Innocence Project and Wrongful Convictions Clinic has been investigting Sharpe’s case for almost 10 years. They say it’s a textbook wrongful conviction case.

“The evidence was wrong,” says Advancement Project Attorney Caitlin Swain. “You have witnesses who have recanted persistently who have not been heard by the courts.”

Sharpe’s mother Sarah Blakey is now working with the N.C. NAACP to fight for her son’s freedom.

“It is time for change,” says Sarah Blakey. “It is time for justice.”

The NAACP says this case is historic and they hope the judicial system will take a closer look.

“We are going to see justice in Pitt County,” says N.C. NAACP Rev. Dr. William Barber II. “And Dontae, not only in Pitt County. But your case is going to cause justice throughout America. You will not have served this time for nothing.”

The group working on Sharpe’s case is credited with proving Howard Dudley’s wrongful conviction in Kinston last week.

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