Locked behind iron prison bars on death row for 4,887 days, Glen “Ed” Chapman knew he was innocent, but no one would listen. Chapman lost 14 years of his life in a jail cell for two murders he was wrongly convicted of.
Monday night, the Elon University Innocence Project brought Chapman to speak at the Elon University Law School about his ordeal.
Chapman was convicted in 1994 of the murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley in Hickory, N.C.
When the sentence was read, “a cold chill ran down my body,” Chapman said. “I thought, somebody help me, somebody help me, but there was nobody there,” he said. “I just wanted to throw in the towel.”
When Chapman thought there was nothing left for him, he said he received support from his fellow inmates who encouraged him to keep fighting. He started studying his case and sent approximately 5,000 letters while in jail.
“You’ve got to have something to occupy your mind,” Chapman said.
In November 2007, Chapman was awarded a new trial when it was discovered that detectives had withheld evidence that pointed to Chapman’s innocence.
On April 2, 2008, the district attorney dismissed both charges and Chapman was released from prison with 10-minutes notice.
Then came the hard part: living on the outside. Chapman missed his grandmother’s funeral. He missed his mother’s funeral. And he missed watching his two sons, now ages 20 and 17, grow up.
Chapman was joined for the presentation by mitigation specialist Pamela Laughon, associate professor of psychology at UNC Asheville, who worked for five years toward Chapman’s release.
“It took me about 75 interviews and a couple of years to come to the conclusion that Ed was innocent,” Laughon said.
After realizing his innocence, Laughon printed a copy of his mug shot, wrote “Free Chapman” across it, posted it to her office door and committed herself to obtaining his freedom.
“It’s easy when we are working on the cases to forget that there are actual people behind the files,” Elon Innocence Project President Jenny Ruby said. “By bringing in a speaker who spent so many years in prison and then (was) released, it shows us that the work we are doing is important and can make a difference.”
For further information of innocence projects in the USA see the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence website