Three Judge Panel Decision for James Blackmon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | From the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission | Lindsey Guice Smith, Executive Director

On August 20-22, 2019, a three-judge panel convened in Wake County to hear the case of State vs. James Blackmon (Wake – 83 CRS 84695).  In 1988, Mr. Blackmon entered an alford plea for the September 28, 1979, murder of Helena Payton.  At the end of the hearing, the three-judge panel unanimously concluded that Mr. Blackmon had proven by clear and convincing evidence that he was innocent of second-degree murder.  

James Blackmon is the 12th person exonerated as a result of investigation by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.  His case was heard by the Commission on November 14-16, 2018, and the Commission unanimously concluded that there was sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review and the case was referred forward for a hearing before a three-judge panel. The Commission’s lead investigator on this case was Staff Attorney Julie Bridenstine.

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 12 individuals and over 2500 claims have been submitted to the agency. Since October 2018, the Commission has held three hearings which resulted in referral to a three-judge panel. Two of those cases are pending hearing. 

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