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6. Christopher Spicer North Carolina Conviction: 1973, Acquitted: 1975
In 1975, a North Carolina jury acquitted Christopher Spicer of the murder of Donnie P. Christian. Spicer was convicted of the crime in September 1973, but the conviction was overturned the following year by the North Carolina Supreme Court. (State v. Spicer, 204 SE 2d 641 (1974)). At Spicer's trial, the State offered the testimony of Charles Pennington, a jailhouse snitch. Although the defense introduced two witnesses who testified that Pennington and Spicer were never cell mates, Pennington testified that Spicer admitted to the crime while he and Spicer shared a cell. After sharing this "confession" with police, Pennington's bond was reduced from $5,000 to $400 and he was released from jail. In overturning Spicer's conviction, the North Carolina Supreme Court held that the trial judge committed reversible error by not allowing defense counsel to cross examine Pennington "to discover whom the witness was indebted for such favors and to ascertain to what extent the favors colored his testimony against Spicer." Id. at 646. Defense counsel was unable to question Pennington as to who was paying the living expenses of Pennington and his wife, neither of whom was working at the time. The court also found that the trial court committed reversible error when it "succeeded in pressuring the defendant and his counsel into withdrawing the request for an appropriate instruction" with regard to how the jury should scrutinize the testimony of another witness for the State, Bertie Brailford. (Id. at 648). At Spicer's retrial, the jury took only 15 minutes to unanimously acquit him. (Wilmington Morning Star, February 21, 1975).


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