Montoyae Dontae Sharpe can now seek up to $750,000 compensation for his wrongful conviction
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Dontae Sharpe breathes the air outside the Pitt County Courthouse after a judge determined he could be set free, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, in Greenville, N.C. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, pardoned Sharpe who spent 24 years behind bars for a murder he has long said he did not commit. Cooper’s pardon of innocence allows Sharpe to apply for compensation up to $750,000 for his wrongful conviction.
Credit: Deborah Griffin/The Daily Reflector via AP

A North Carolina man who served 24 years in prison for a crime he never committed has officially been pardoned.

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper pardoned Montoyae Dontae Sharpe, a man who was given a life sentence for the first-degree murder of another man whom he was accused of killing during a reported drug deal years ago, according to NPR.

"I have carefully reviewed Montoyae Dontae Sharpe's case and am granting him a Pardon of Innocence," Gov. Cooper said in a statement. "Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged."

Gov. Cooper's pardon will now allow Sharpe to seek compensation for his wrongful conviction. He can seek up to $750,000, The Washington Post reported.

Back in 1995, a then-19-year-old Sharpe was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for the murder of George Radcliffe, a 33-year-old man who was found shot in his pickup truck a year prior, per The New York Times.

Amid his trial, the publication noted that a 15-year-old girl named Charlene Johnson testified that she saw Sharpe shoot Radcliffe in a fight over drugs. Johnson would then go on to take back her testimony weeks later.

Sharpe's hopes to overturn his conviction were finally heard in 2019 during two evidentiary hearings. There, the presiding judge determined that Johnson would testify that "she was not present at the time of the shooting and that her trial testimony was entirely made up based on what she saw on television and what investigators told her," according to the Times.

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After being released from prison in August 2019, the Pitt County District Attorney's Office also dismissed Sharpe's murder charge and said they would not retry his case based on the lack of evidence.

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After he received the news that he had been pardoned, Sharpe told reporters, "I haven't soaked it in yet. It was a surprise," according to The Charlotte Observer. "Now my family's name has been cleared, it lifts a burden off my shoulders."

"My freedom ain't still complete," he added. "Know that our system is corrupt and needs to be changed … I'm thankful that I got mine and thankful that other guys are gonna get theirs. That's what's important now."