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Thomas Shreve

Other North Carolina Exonerations
On September 18, 1987, police in Jacksonville, North Carolina, arrested 31-year-old Thomas Shreve after he allegedly made a bomb threat during an anti-abortion protest at The Crist Clinic for Women.

Shreve went to trial in March 1988 in Onslow County Superior Court on two misdemeanor charges of communicating a threat. When the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, a mistrial was declared. He went to trial a second time in May 1988.

Kathy Ross, the business manager of the clinic, testified that while she was at the clinic’s front door, Shreve yelled, “Mrs. Ross, if you will hold that door open, I’m going to throw a bomb in there and get you out.” She said she called police and Shreve was arrested.

Pam Hannan, a receptionist, testified that she was leaving the clinic to run an errand when she heard Shreve make the comment about a bomb. She told the jury she believed he was serious “because of the tone of his voice.”

The defense called other protesters, including some who were pushing young children in strollers, who testified that they thought Shreve had made a bad joke and was not serious. The witnesses testified that Shreve had participated in about 20 prior protests and had never made any prior threats.

Shreve’s attorney sought to present character witnesses to testify to Shreve’s peaceful nature, but the trial judge barred their testimony.

On May 24, 1988, the jury convicted Shreve of communicating a threat in relation to Ross and acquitted him of communicating a threat in relation to Hannan. He was sentenced to probation for five years.

In July 1989, the North Carolina Court of Appeals vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court held that Shreve should have been permitted to call his character witnesses. “Evidence of defendant’s peacefulness was relevant to the issues of defendant’s willfulness in making the statement, whether the statement would have been believed by a reasonable person as well as the reasonableness of Ross’ perception that the statement was not a joke,” the appeals court said.

Shreve went to trial a third time and on October 10, 1989, with the addition of the character witnesses, a jury acquitted him.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/14/2015
State:North Carolina
Most Serious Crime:Threats
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1987
Age at the date of reported crime:31
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No