Sylvester Smith

In 1984, two girls, 4 and 6 years old, were molested by their 9-year-old cousin at their family home in Belville, North Carolina. When the molestation was discovered, the girls’ grandmother pressured them to accuse Sylvester Smith, the boyfriend of one of their mothers, of committing the abuse, instead of their cousin. The girls accused Smith and, based on their testimony, he was convicted of rape by a jury and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Twenty years later, in 2004, the victims came forward and recanted, saying that Smith had never molested them and they were pressured into lying by their grandmother, who was trying to protect their cousin, her grandson. In November 2004, Smith’s conviction was overturned and prosecutors dropped the charges. Smith requested a pardon from then Governor Mike Easley, but Easley, who had personally prosecuted Smith in 1984, refused to pardon him in 2005. The girls’ cousin, who is now serving a life sentence for murder, could not be prosecuted because he was underage at the time of the crime.

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date:  Before June 2012

 

State:North Carolina
County:Brunswick
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1984
Convicted:1984
Exonerated:2004
Sentence:Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age:32
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No