27-year-old Lemuel Parrott was convicted of robbery and first-degree murder and sentenced to death in Lenoir County, North Carolina, in 1947. His alleged accomplice, Sam Thompson, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Parrott was exonerated the following year when Thompson provided an affidavit stating that Parrott did not commit the crime.
On the evening of January 31, 1947, 50-year-old Kenneth Taylor was slain while resisting robbery at the bakery where he worked in Kinston, North Carolina. Thompson’s second-degree murder conviction came when he confessed to having been Parrott’s accomplice in the murder of Taylor. On the basis of Thompson’s claims that Parrott had killed Taylor, the jury convicted Parrott at his trial.
On April 14, 1948, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied Parrott’s appeal, and Parrott was scheduled to die in the gas chamber on April 30, 1948. However, the week after Parrott’s appeal was denied, Thompson, who was serving his prison sentence, admitted that he had fabricated his original statement because the police had threatened him. He signed an affidavit stating that both he and Parrott had been in North Wilkesboro and Winston-Salem on the night of the crime, several hundred miles away. An investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation corroborated Thompson’s claim.
On April 22, 1948, Judge John J. Burney granted Parrott a new trial on the basis of Thompson’s affidavit, and Parrott was acquitted by the jury at his retrial on September 17, 1948. Despite the new evidence, Thompson’s conviction was permitted to stand. In July 1959, Thompson was paroled despite his perjury charge for false testimony because he had already spent so many years in prison.
- Researched by Carling Spelhaug
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.