A 70-year-old man wrongly convicted of murder has walked free from prison after serving 37 years in prison.
Joseph Sledge was given a life sentence for the killing of a mother and daughter in North Carolina, but has now been found innocent by a panel of judges following new DNA evidence.
Walking out of court, Mr Sledge said he was looking forward to going home and doing the “most mundane” things like “relaxing and sleeping in a real bed”.
He said he never doubted he would one day be freed despite spending more than half his life in prison.
“I had confidence in my own self. The self-will and the patience,” he said. “Patience is the word.”
Josephine Davis, 74, and her daughter Aileen, 57, were found stabbed to death in their home in Elizabethtown in 1976, a day after Mr Sledge escaped from a prison work farm where he was serving a four-year sentence for larceny.
A three-judge panel was told by a DNA expert none of the evidence collected in the case matched Mr Sledge.
A key jailhouse informant, Herman Baker, also retracted his testimony in 2013.
He said he lied at Mr Sledge’s trial after being promised leniency in his own drug case and had been coached by authorities on what to say.
Mr Sledge is the third inmate to be cleared in less than six months in North Carolina.
His lawyer Christine Mumma had been on the verge of closing the case in 2012 when court clerks discovered a misplaced envelope containing hair from the crime scene while cleaning out an evidence vault.
It contained hair, found on the victim and believed to be the attacker’s, that turned out to be a key piece of evidence for DNA testing, which was not available when Mr Sledge went on trial in 1978.