LAURINBURG — A Scotland County man was pardoned by the governor on Thursday of rape and robbery charges that put him in prison for 27 years.
Edward Charles McInnis was released from the correctional system last August after the Laurinburg Police Department unearthed DNA evidence, long thought to be lost, clearing him of felony rape and robbery charges in a 1988 attack on a Laurinburg woman.
The 54-year-old was serving a life sentence when Superior Court judge Tanya Wallace dismissed the charges against him.
The Office of Executive Clemency, the governor’s legal team, and the Clemency Committee reviewed McInnis’ application for pardon, and Gov. Pat McCrory met with McInnis this week in Raleigh. With the pardon, McInnis is now eligible to file a claim for up to $750,000 in compensation as a wrongly convicted man.
“On behalf of the State of North Carolina, I apologize to Mr. McInnis for the 27 years he had to spend behind bars for crimes he did not commit,” McCrory said in a statement. “While we cannot give him back those years of his life, I wish him well as he resumes his life as a free man.”
McInnis appealed to the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission in March 2015 after more than a decade of appeals to various agencies in the hopes of having his case reviewed.
“I kept running into roadblocks and stuff like that, but I just kept on writing,” McInnis said upon his release last year. “It’s been a long journey for me — I’ve been praying for this day, though I’m glad it’s over with.”
The appeal led to a renewed search for DNA evidence to support or refute McInnis’ claim of innocence. After several days of searching by the Laurinburg Police Department, the evidence was found and used to create a DNA profile of the attacker.
DNA testing technology in 1988 was not sufficiently advanced to clear McInnis of the crime based on the evidence available. In 2010, when the nonprofit N.C. Actual Innocence Commission filed a claim on McInnis’ behalf, police were unable to locate the evidence, assuming it had been destroyed along with clothing evidence nine years earlier.
McInnis was 26 years old when he was accused of breaking into the home of an 81-year-old educator, but his version of events was never consistent with the testimony of the victim, who never clearly saw her attacker in her dark home. He was convicted in part based on information from an indivudual, never named in police files, who said that McInnis spoke to him about the incident about a week after it occurred, claiming “I did that.”
“The Innocence Inquiry Commission is pleased to learn of Edward McInnis’ pardon,” said N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission associate director Sharon Stellato. “The Commission conducted a swift and detailed investigation of Mr. McInnis’ case with the cooperation of the Scotland County District Attorney and Laurinburg Police Department. The Commission has provided the results of the investigation to the District Attorney in the hopes that the true perpetrator will be identified and brought to justice.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.