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Erick Daniels

Other North Carolina Exonerations
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On September 21, 2000, two youths wearing bandanas over their faces broke into Ruth Brown’s house in Durham County, North Carolina and robbed her of over $6,000 cash she had on hand because she ran an illegal gambling operation out of her house.

Brown provided descriptions to police and then looked at a middle school yearbook. After 30 minutes studying the yearbook, she settled on 14-year-old Erick Daniels as one of the robbers.  She did not, however, get a good look at either of them and her initial description did not match Daniels.

Daniels was pulled out of class and questioned by police without his parents’ permission.  The only evidence against Daniels was Brown’s identification and the procedures used in procuring the initial identification have since been abandoned by the Durham police as unreliable.

In December 2001, Daniels was tried as an adult and convicted of armed robbery and burglary by a jury in Durham County Superior Court. He was sentenced to 10 to 14 years in prison. 
 
Daniels’ mother continued to work on his behalf and eventually was able to find new counsel, who obtained an evidentiary hearing in 2008. At that hearing Daniels’ new lawyer presented evidence that another man, Samuel Strong, who was in federal prison following an unrelated bank robbery conviction, had confessed to the crime.

Durham County prosecutors had been informed of this confession about a year after Daniels’ trial, but made no effort to investigate Strong’s claim or tell Daniels’ new lawyer about it. Unlike Daniels, Strong closely matched the original description provided by Brown, and he was known to have committed robberies with the another youth who was suspected of the Brown robbery.
 
Daniels’ lawyer also argued that his conviction should be reversed because his original trial attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense. by failing to object when the prosecution presented evidence that Daniels had a juvenile marijuana conviction, even though the lawyer knew such evidence is inadmissible. The lawyer also failed to investigate evidence indicating that other suspects had actually committed the crime.

And, most important, the lawyer not only had represented Samuel Strong, the real robber, but had continued to represent both of them even after he learned that Strong was the real criminal when Strong confessed to him shortly after Daniels was convicted.
 
On September 19, 2008, Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ruled that Daniels had received constitutionally deficient representation from his trial lawyer, and that Daniels was innocent. He dismissed the charges against Daniels and ordered his immediate release.  Daniels sought a pardon and compensation, but his application for a pardon was denied in February 2011.
 
Michael S. Perry

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
State:North Carolina
County:Durham
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:2000
Convicted:2001
Exonerated:2008
Sentence:10 to 14 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:14
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No