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Man’s quest for release after rape conviction

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They were the last words Norman Satterfield and his family wanted to hear: “It's not going to happen, today.”

But that’s what their attorney Mark Rabil had to tell them. Rabil and his students at Wake Forest University’s Innocence and Justice Clinic have been working for more than two years to prove that Satterfield was not the man who raped a woman in Statesville, on March 14, 1979. But Satterfield was convicted of that rape – identified by the victim – on Oct. 17 of that year.

The problem was, the victim testified under hypnosis. That wasn’t uncommon in the 70s, but it was soon discredited as a method – shown to be counter-productive, in fact – and that was just part of the evidence Rabil and his students used to convince the Iredell County District Attorney to ask a judge to issue an order, reducing Satterfield’s sentence to time served. And that’s no short time – it has been 37 years, longer than the sentence Satterfield could get for that same crime today.

But when Satterfield’s family learned he was not going to be released, as they expected, they remained stoic.

“It's disappointing but that's life. You've got to take it as it is. You can't give up hope,” says his sister Tracy Lazeby.

Mark Rabil was more resigned.

“I always expect the worst,” he said – something he learned from nearly four decades as a defense attorney.

Satterfield remains positive.

"You've got to believe within your heart and say, 'Well, I'm going to keep praying and asking God almighty in my prayers, every night, to open up these gates and let me walk out a free, free man," he says.

See how his dream of freedom fell apart in this edition of the Buckley Report.