Man freed after spending 17 years in prison
GREENSBORO, N.C. — A man sentenced to prison over 15 years ago, has been released after a investigation resulted in new evidence.
“I prayed for this and prayed for this and prayed for this.”
In 1995 he was convicted of a crime he did not commit. A jury believed in Armstrong killed one of his former NC A&T professors, Ernestine Compton in 1988. Armstrong insisted he didn’t do it.
“For years I wrote upon deaf ears and closed eyes. I’d get deterred for two to three days. Somehow, some way God would give me the strength to pick it up again and I’d go right back to writing and writing.”
His determination caught the attention oft Duke University’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic. The group of law professors and students found Greensboro Police missed some key evidence and hid details from Armstrong’s defense team.
The case also hinged on a convicted felon who once told police he saw Armstrong murder the professor, but has since taken it back.
“Yeah. I’m somewhat angry. I can’t help it. I’m human. I’m glad to see guilford county finally rectified some of it,” said Armstrong.
Amstrong missed a lot behind bars. He has a daughter who he hasn’t spent any time with since she was little and his son was only 19 when his dad went to prison.
“Now being 36-years-old, I have kids of my own and I just thank God they’ll get to see their grandfather,” said Armstrong’s son, Don Smith.
Armstrong has big plans – starting with dinner with his legal team, family and friends and eventually furthering his education.
“I’m challenging this person beside me. If I finish school, you finish school. If I go back, you go back. So we’ll see what happens.”
Greensboro police recently took a handprint found at the scene of the crime years ago, ran it through their newer database and found a match, but the man has since died.