The case involved the death of Jonathan Russell Whitson who died on March 6, 2011. On April 17, 2014, a jury found John Pritchard guilty of Second-Degree Murder in the death of Mr. Whitson, Delivery of Controlled Substance Schedule II, Possession with the Intent to Sell, Manufacture, Deliver (PWISD) Schedule II Controlled Substance. Mr. Pritchard was also found guilty of Maintain Vehicle/Dwelling/Place for Controlled Substances, which is a misdemeanor.
During the hearing, NCIIC 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 concluded by a vote of 6-2 that there was sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review for 11CRS304 (Second-Degree Murder). The Commission concluded by a vote of 7-1 that there was not sufficient evidence to merit judicial review for 11CRS305 (Delivery of Controlled Substance Schedule II, and Possession with the Intent to Sell, Manufacture, Deliver (PWISD) Schedule II Controlled Substance). The Commission did not consider the misdemeanor conviction as misdemeanors are not statutorily eligible for review by the Commission.
The second-degree murder conviction was referred forward for a hearing before a three-judge panel. Chief Justice Paul Newby will appoint a panel of three superior court judges to hear the case in Yancey County.