CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Gov. Pat McCrory has granted LaMonte Armstrong a pardon of innocence after he spent nearly 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Just in time for Christmas, the pardon came 25 years after Armstrong told Greensboro police detectives he wasn’t even in town the night North Carolina A&T professor Ernestine Compton was killed.
It wasn’t until 2006 that lawyers with Duke University’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic believed Armstrong, and took on the case.
It turns out the state’s key witness against Armstrong later recanted, saying he testified to collect a reward and avoid a prison sentence. The team of Duke law students and alumni also helped uncover new evidence linking another man to the murder.
“I know one thing -- it's been a big waste. They took some good years of my life. But I'm just going to try my best to make the best of what I got left,” said Armstrong.
Even though Armstrong was released from prison in 2012 and charges were dropped in March, he says Gov. McCrory has finally cleared his name.
“What it meant for the Governor to call me and pardon me was finally for all those people who didn't believe, maybe now they will believe. Because the number one citizen in North Carolina just said, ‘You're innocent.’ He also said he was sorry,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong now works at a substance abuse treatment center in Chapel Hill. He says being pardoned will finally allow him to become a certified substance abuse counselor.
The pardon also means Armstrong is eligible to receive up to $750,000 as compensation for the wrongful conviction.