Governor McCrory Grants Pardon of Innocence

  • December 23, 2013 • Ethics and Accountability

    Raleigh, NC - Governor Pat McCrory made a personal phone call to LaMonte Burton Armstrong, 63, of Chapel Hill today to inform him that his pardon of innocence was granted.

    Armstrong served 16.5 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

    Armstrong was convicted of first degree murder by a Guilford County jury in 1995 for the 1988 slaying of North Carolina A&T professor Ernestine Compton at her Greensboro home. Armstrong was implicated by an acquaintance, Charles Blackwell, who later became the State’s key witness against Armstrong. No physical evidence ever linked Armstrong to the crime scene.

    In the spring of 2010, Blackwell completely recanted his testimony against Armstrong, saying he testified in order to collect a Crime Stoppers reward and to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Another witness against Armstrong had previously recanted his testimony immediately after the trial.

    In December 2011, the Duke Wrongful Conviction Clinic reviewed Armstrong’s case and requested a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR).

    In September 2012, State investigators re-ran all known prints from the case. One of these prints was an unidentified partial palm print found on a door frame above the victim’s body. Using a new database, the palm print was matched to another suspect in the case.

    After these discoveries, Armstrong's lawyers moved to expedite his release. On June 29, 2012, Superior Court Judge Joseph Turner vacated Armstrong’s conviction and ordered him released pending a new trial. The District Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against Armstrong on March 18, 2013.

    Armstrong filed a request for a pardon of innocence on June 17, 2013. His request was reviewed by the Governor's Clemency Office.

    In December, Governor McCrory and General Counsel Bob Stephens met with Armstrong in the governor’s office with defense lawyer David Pishko as well as James Coleman and Theresa Newman of the Duke University School of Law Wrongful Conviction Clinic.

    Since his release, Armstrong has been employed by The Freedom House in Chapel Hill, an outpatient substance abuse treatment center. He is taking classes at Wake Technical Community College to become a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor.

    Armstrong is eligible to file a claim under a North Carolina law that allows compensation of up to $750,000 to persons wrongly convicted of felonies.

    Governor McCrory said Armstrong had finished working an overnight shift at The Freedom House and was having breakfast with his son at a local diner when he called. Armstrong had one more request. A former high school and college basketball player, Armstrong invited the governor to shoot hoops and play a game of H-O-R-S-E.

    Governor McCrory accepted the invitation and wished Armstrong and his family a warm and Merry Christmas.