Campfire

Episode 1:
State of North Carolina
vs.
Timothy Bridges

 

Time Served: 25 Years
Status: Exonerated, 2016

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Abuse of Power:
False or Misleading Forensic Science

(Photo / Innocence Project)

“I was put in jail March 27, 1990. I never left the jail house. I’ll never forget it, I’ll never forget that date.” –Tim Bridges

On Mother’s Day 1989, wheelchair-bound, 83-year-old Modine Wise was viciously attacked and sexually assaulted. The next morning, she was found nearly lifeless on the floor of her North Carolina home. At the scene, police found a pack of Salem Light cigarettes, a men’s jacket, a pair of men’s socks, a pair of unidentified glasses, and an unidentified bloody palm print. Tim Bridges was arrested for the crime on March 27, 1990, on the word of three neighborhood police informants, even though he didn’t smoke Salems, didn’t wear glasses, and his palm didn’t match the bloody print. In February 1991, Bridges was found guilty at trial, primarily based on the testimony of a hair analysis expert from the Charlotte Police Department Crime Lab. The analyst claimed that two hairs found at the crime scene matched Bridges.

Bridges spent the next two decades in prison proclaiming his innocence. In 2012, the FBI concluded that agency-trained analysts like those at the Charlotte Crime Lab often gave testimony that went “beyond the limits of science.” North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services filed a motion on behalf of Bridges detailing how the hair analysis testimony from his trial exceeded the limits of science. The Mecklenburg County DA’s office agreed, and Bridges was released on October 1, 2015. Subsequent DNA analysis of evidence from the crime scene found that Bridges was not the perpetrator. Bridges was pardoned by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on December 1, 2016, and David and Sonya helped him obtain a record $9.5 million settlement from the city of Charlotte in a civil suit alleging a violation of his right to a fair trial.

North Carolina

Date of crime: 5/14/89

Crime: Rape and burglary

Sentence: Life

Interview Subjects:

  • Timothy Bridges
  • David Rudolf
  • Skip Palenik, Forensic Scientist