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RALEIGH — After serving more than 40 years in prison, Charles Ray Finch could be set free as early as today.
“I knew the miracle was going to happen,” said Finch’s daughter, Kat Jones Bailey. “I just didn’t know when. It’s been worth the wait. It’s been worth the fight.”
Finch, 81, has been serving a life sentence in the killing of Richard “Shadow” Holloman, who was gunned down in a failed robbery attempt inside his Black Creek country store on Feb. 13, 1976. Finch has maintained his innocence since the time of his arrest.
A federal court ordered his release Thursday morning after a hearing in Raleigh.
In court earlier this year, the U.S. 4th Circuit ruled in Finch’s favor, concluding in its opinion that not only were his constitutional rights violated during three highly suggestive police lineups, but that no reasonable juror would have convicted Finch based on the totality of both old and new evidence. His case, the judges ruled, was one of actual innocence.
The Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic, which represents Finch, has worked for decades in trying to get Finch’s conviction overturned. He was their first case.
Jim Coleman, Duke University School of Law professor and co-director of the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic, asked the court for Finch to be released immediately. Lawyers are hoping that could be today. The judge ordered Finch to be released from prison no later than noon Friday.
“We feel an enormous sense of vindication,” Coleman said.
Finch’s family members could barely contain their emotion Friday morning.
“I wanted to make sure he was out before the weekend,” Coleman said.
The Times continues to monitor developments.