Willie Grimes was released from prison after serving 24 years for a wrongful rape conviction. His fight for justice is still not over.
Attorneys for Grimes filed a civil lawsuit in federal court claiming the investigation by members of the Hickory Police Department was grossly inadequate and that the Catawba County Sheriff failed to protect evidence.
Grimes was exonerated in 2012 after being convicted for the 1987 rape of an older woman. He now lives in Gaston County.
The lawsuit claims a Hickory Police officer was related to the actual rape suspect, that evidence was destroyed without a court order, and the exculpatory evidence was never disclosed.
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The lawsuit names past and present Chiefs of Police in Hickory, Sheriffs in Catawba County, Clerks of Court, and investigators.
On the day of his exoneration, a panel of three judges apologized to Grimes and the victim's family saying this is a situation that should have been rectified years ago.
The panel cleared the charges of rape and kidnapping; removed his name from the N.C. Sex Offender Registry.
One of the judges commended Grimes for his unwavering spirit.
He was paroled early, but said he wanted his name cleared because "I didn't do anything wrong."
His defense team presented alibi witnesses, expert testimony and newly analyzed fingerprint evidence.
Much of the focus had been on another man who lived in the area and has a history of assaulting women.
Albert Turner's photo was in the photo lineup when Grimes' picture was picked out by the victim but the defense team said the victim was too shaken up to make a proper I-D.
They also pointed to fingerprints found on fruit at the victim's home. Those prints match those of Albert Turner.
Grimes says he was with others the night the woman was raped.
Since he was declared not guilty by the panel, Grimes could be eligible for compensation for wrongful incarceration.
The General Assembly approved a bill several years ago that could mean payments of $50,000 per year of incarceration up to a maximum of $750,000.