Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Joseph Sledge

First Name Joseph
Last NameSledge
Year of Conviction1978
Year of Exoneration2015
State of ConvictionNorth Carolina
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeMurder
Death SentenceNo
Life / LWOP sentenceLife
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeBlack
Types of evidence at trial
  • Forensic Evidence
  • Informant
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Fingerprint
  • Hair
  • Serology
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Invalid
Reason why invalid(5) Hair match probability statement relying on experience
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

The analyst testified that the hairs "could have originated from the defendant" and emphasizing that "I look at hairs on a day-to-day basis, and I find it extremely unlikely when hair samples taken from two different individuals at random cannot be differentiated between. Hairs are quite distinct in their own innate microscopic characteristics." The fingerprint excluded the defendant. Serology identified the presence of blood in the car and no blood on clothing from the defendant.

Jailhouse informant, Co-defendant, Incentivized WitnessJ
Examples of Non-Public or Corroborated Facts and Inconsistencies● Described how defendant admitted to him that he murdered women in Bladen County, that "they were cut up" and that they were "cut and stabbed, you know." The informant testified that "he had hid his clothes, you know, and they would never be found." ● Second jailhouse informant testified that he broke into a house in the woods and stabbed two women, after hitting one "in the jaw," and a struggle with another. ● He sprinkled black pepper around the door before leaving so "the she devils wouldn't follow him."
Quotes from testimony #3

"He said that he had hid his clothes, you know, and they would never be found." Second jailhouse informant testified that "he was on escape and was running through the woods and broke into a house and ran into these two ladies and stabbed them… And he started hitting the other one, and he grabbed a knife. And after he stagged the first one, one was on his back. And he pushed her down and stabbed her, was stabbing her."

Quotes regarding any deal or leniency with informant, or prior use of informant

The informant testified that he had not been promised anything in regards to testifying in the case, nor receiving a reward for reporting information about the murders. The second informant testified that he had not known "until recently" that there was a reward in the case, and he only went to the authorities because of "knowing about it," but that no promises had been offered by law enforcement.

Highest level reachedFederalHabeas
Claims Raised During All Appeals and Postconviction
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
  • State Law Evidence Claim
Citations to judicial opinions

State v. Sledge, 254 S.E.2d 579 (SC 1979)
In re Sledge, 33 Fed.Appx. 110 (4th Cir. 2002)
Sledge v. Moore, 878 F.2d 1431 (4th Cir. 1989)
Sledge v. North Carolina, 529 U.S. 1135 (2000)