Three-Judge Panel Issues Ruling in State v. John Prtichard
A three-judge panel hearing was held in the case of State v. John Pritchard, 11 CRS 304 (Yancey County) on July 11-13, after the case was referred by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission (NCIIC). On July 20 the three-judge panel ruled that Mr. Pritchard had not proven his innocence by clear and convincing evidence and relief was denied.
The case arises from the death of Jonathan Russell Whitson on March 6, 2011. On April 17, 2014, John Pritchard was convicted, after a jury trial, of second-degree murder, delivery of controlled substance schedule II, possession with the intent to sell, manufacture, deliver (PWISD) schedule II controlled substance, and maintain vehicle / dwelling / place for controlled substances (misdemeanor). The Commission did not consider the misdemeanor conviction as misdemeanors are not statutorily eligible for review by the Commission.
On December 14 and 15, 2021, NCIIC Executive Director Lindsey Guice Smith presented the case in a hearing before the full Commission. 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 11 CRS 304, second-degree murder, and the case was referred forward for a hearing before a three-judge panel. The Commission concluded by a vote of 7-1 that there was not sufficient evidence to merit judicial review for 11 CRS 305, delivery of controlled substance schedule II, and possession with the intent to sell, manufacture, deliver (PWISD) schedule II controlled substance.
View materials considered by the Commission, including a transcript of the Commission's hearing.
Since its inception, the Commission has held 18 Commission hearings, representing less than 1% of the claims the Commission has received. Of those, 16 cases, involving 21 individual claimants, were referred to a three-judge panel hearing. Eight cases have resulted in the exoneration of nine claimants after a three-judge panel hearing. Five cases, involving eight claimants, resulted in the denial of the claims by the three-judge panel (including State v. John Pritchard). In three cases, four claimants entered Alford pleas for time served prior to the three-judge panel hearing.
Since it began operating in 2006, the Commission has reviewed and closed over 3,000 claims, confirming guilt through DNA testing in 10 cases.
For questions, please contact NCIIC Executive Director Lindsey Guice Smith, at 919-890-1580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more information on the Commission’s website at www.innocencecommisson-nc.gov.