Charlotte Talks: 24 Years In Prison For A Crime He Didn't Commit. But Willie Grimes Isn't Resentful.

Nov 16, 2017

We talk with the author of 'Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption' about Willie Grimes, who was wrongfully convicted of a crime in 1987. Here's Grimes' mugshot from that year.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Imagine spending more than two decades in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. That's exactly the nightmare scenario North Carolina man Willie Grimes found himself in. Sarah Delia talks with him about his case and the rise of exonerations for the wrongfully convicted.

Grimes was tried and convicted for a sexual assault against an elderly woman in Hickory in 1987. He was sentenced to life in prison and maintained his innocence throughout his 24 years in prison. Through the Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state agency in North Carolina and the first of its kind in the country, Grimes was exonerated of the crime and released in 2012.

Cases like these are rare, but have a profound impact on the lives of those wrongfully accused, on victims, and confidence in the criminal justice system. Exonerations of the wrongfully convicted are on the rise. This is due in part to DNA evidence, but also a result of tireless work by advocacy groups like the North Carolina Center for Actual Innocence, which push for reforms of the criminal justice system.

WFAE reporter Sarah Delia with Willie Grimes, who was exonerated and released from prison in 2012.
Credit Erin Keever

This state has been at the forefront of the movement to get wrongful convictions overturned. We examine some of the work being done in North Carolina and hear more about Willie Grimes' case from the man himself and an author who has chronicled the story of his wrongful conviction and his long path to exoneration in the book Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption.


Benjamin Rachlin - Author of Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption, which chronicles the case and exoneration of Willie Grimes

Willie Grimes - North Carolina man who served 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was accused and convicted of a sexual assault in 1987 against an elderly woman. He was exonerated and released from prison in 2012.

Chris Mumma - Attorney and Executive Director of the North Carolina Center for Actual Innocence. She represented Willie Grimes and advocates for the wrongfully convicted.