Court denies motion to dismiss Joseph Sledge’s wrongful conviction suit

Last year, Patterson Harkavy filed suit on behalf of Joseph Sledge, a man who served 37 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  The suit alleged that Mr. Sledge was wrongfully convicted because officers with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation unlawfully withheld evidence that demonstrated his innocence.  It also alleged that beginning in 1993, Mr. Sledge began repeatedly requesting that evidence from his case be subjected to DNA testing.  For nearly 20 years, agencies falsely informed him that they had no evidence. Once the agencies finally produced evidence from Mr. Sledge’s case, DNA testing demonstrated his innocence.

Defendant Henry Poole moved to dismiss Mr. Sledge’s claims.  Defendant Poole was one of the officers who allegedly withheld evidence demonstrating Sledge’s innocence.  In his motion to dismiss, Defendant Poole argued that Mr. Sledge failed to alleged the violation of a constitutional right, and that even if he had, he was entitled to immunity from suit because his obligation to disclose evidence demonstrating a criminal defendant’s innocence was not clearly established in the 1970s.

Today, United States District Court Judge James Dever denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss and allowed Mr. Sledge’s claims to proceed to discovery.  Click here to view Patterson Harkavy’s brief in opposition to Defendant Poole’s motion.

Mr. Sledge’s wrongful conviction and exoneration have received extensive media coverage, including in The New York Times, The Atlantic, CNN, and the Raleigh News & Observer.

Patterson Harkavy attorneys Burton Craige, Narendra Ghosh, and Paul Smith represent Mr. Sledge in his civil suit.