Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Toney McEachern

Other North Carolina Exonerees Convicted of Child Sex Abuse that Didn't Happen
In 1991, 35-year-old Toney McEachern was charged with raping his 12-year-old daughter in Red Springs, North Carolina on July 1, 1990.

McEachern went to trial in Robeson County Superior Court in February 1993. His daughter testified that on the night of July 1, 1990, she became afraid during a violent thunderstorm and crawled into bed with McEachern. She said that McEachern raped her during the night. She told the jury that a week later she told a friend that she had been raped. She also testified that she told a school official, a police officer and a social worker in February 1991.

The officer and social worker testified that she gave the same account to them. The girl admitted during cross-examination that she was unhappy with her father because he was strict and because she thought he cared more for his girlfriend than for her.

The pastor of the church where McEachern was a deacon came to court to testify as a character witness for McEachern. But after hearing that the pastor was seen talking to members of the jury about playing dominoes while he was waiting in the hallway outside the courtroom, the trial judge barred him from testifying.

McEachern testified and denied any inappropriate contact with his daughter, but on March 1, 1993, the jury convicted him of rape. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 15 years.

In 1998, the Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback granted McEachern a new trial. Stanback ruled that prosecutors from the Robeson County District Attorney’s office had deliberately manipulated the trial calendar so that one of McEachern’s two defense attorneys—both of whom were highly competent and successful public defenders—would not be available for McEachern’s trial.

North Carolina was one of a few states where prosecutor’s set trial calendars. Defense attorneys had long contended that prosecutors manipulated the schedules to make it easier to win convictions.

In 1994, as a result of a civil lawsuit filed by criminal defense attorneys, the North Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that it was illegal to use this court-calendaring power to “gain an unfair tactical advantage” and gave Superior Court judges the authority to review prosecutors’ actions relating to scheduling.

The lawsuit was settled in 1995 with enactment of a case management system that established guidelines for scheduling criminal cases.

After McEachern was granted a new trial, he was released on bond. The charge against him was then dismissed by the prosecution because McEachern’s daughter had recanted in 1994—a year after McEachern was convicted.

She wrote a letter to McEachern’s defense attorneys saying that “my father, Toney McEachern, is innocent. I’m sorry. I’ve told a lie and made a mistake that caused my family a lot of grief. I’ve lied and I want to get my father out as soon as possible.”

In the letter the girl said that she accused her father because she wanted attention. “He didn’t rape me at all,” she said in the letter. “The only thing he did was discipline me.”

In February 1998, Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt dismissed the charge, saying, “Based upon her retraction—that creates reasonable doubt.”

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 9/2/2015
State:North Carolina
County:Robeson
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1990
Convicted:1993
Exonerated:1998
Sentence:Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:34
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No