In October 1990, Jonathan Pierpoint’s seven-year-old step-son came to spend time in his home in Hot Springs, North Carolina, while his mother took care of an ailing relative.
A year later, the boy alleged that Pierpoint, 28, had raped him and on October 10, 1991, Pierpoint was indicted.
Pierpoint went on trial in Madison County Superior Court in June 1992. The boy testified that his step-father forced him onto a bed and raped him. A physician testified for the prosecution that the boy‘s anal opening was irregular and had suffered some type of trauma.
Pierpoint testified that on the day the boy said the rape occurred, he was deer hunting.
On June 30, 1992, after a trial that lasted a day and a half, Pierpoint was convicted of first degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1998, the boy, then 13 years old, said that the rape had never occurred—that he had been pressured by his mother to implicate his step-father. A motion for a new trial based on the recantation was denied in 2001.
In 2008, Pierpoint wrote to the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Duke University School of Law. A re-investigation of the medical evidence showed that the boy had suffered from a medical condition called encopresis, which caused physical signs that could be erroneously interpreted as having been caused by sexual assault.
Lawyers for the Center filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. After a hearing in 2010, the new medical evidence was presented along with the testimony of the victim, then 27, who again testified that he had falsely accused Pierpoint.
On July 6, 2010, Superior Court judge C. Philip Ginn granted the motion for the new trial, saying, “In light of the new evidence, no reasonable juror would have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The charges were dismissed and Pierpoint was released.
In March, 2011, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue declined to grant a pardon based on innocence, which disqualified Pierpoint from obtaining $750,000 in state compensation.
– Maurice Possley