Innocence Inquiry Commission Holds Hearing

On November 14-16, 2018, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission held a hearing in State vs. James Blackmon (Wake – 83 CRS 84695). Mr. Blackmon was convicted for the September 28, 1979 murder of Helena Payton in her college dorm at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, NC.

During the hearing, the Commission’s Executive Director, Lindsey Guice Smith, presented the case to the Commissioners. The Commission’s lead investigator on this case was Staff Attorney Julie Bridenstine. After carefully considering the evidence, the Commission unanimously concluded that there was sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review. The case was referred for a hearing before a three-judge panel. The Chief Justice of North Carolina Supreme Court, Mark D. Martin, will appoint three superior court judges to hear the case in Wake County.

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is a state agency charged with investigating post-conviction claims of factual innocence. The agency was created by the General Assembly in 2006 and began operations in 2007. The Commission is the first and only of its kind in the country. Since 2007, the Commission has conducted investigations that have resulted in the exoneration of 10 individuals and over 2500 claims have been submitted to the agency. Since November 2017, the Commission has held three hearings which resulted in referral to a three judge panel. All are awaiting hearing.

For more information, please contact the Commission’s Executive Director, Lindsey Guice Smith, at (919) 890-1580 or [email protected]. You may also find more information on the Commission’s website at