NC man incarcerated for 11 years for a crime he didn’t commit, panel rules

A Charlotte man incarcerated for 11 years for an armed robbery he maintained he didn’t commit was found innocent by a three-judge panel in Mecklenburg County on Friday.

The judges unanimously concluded that 32-year-old Israel Grant proved his innocence “by clear and convincing evidence,” according to a news release by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh. Grant was paroled in 2016 after serving nine years in state prison for the robbery conviction, state prison records show.

Grant became the 11th person exonerated after an investigation by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Israel Grant.jpg
Lindsey Guice Smith, left, executive director of the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, poses with Israel Grant and commission staff attorney Brian Ziegler. NC Administrative Office of the Courts

The first of its kind in the nation, the commission has reviewed over 2,000 claims of innocence since its creation by the General Assembly in 2006, according to the commission’s website. The commission began operating a year later.

Commission members heard Grant’s case in November 2017 and unanimously found enough evidence of Grant’s innocence existed for a three-judge panel to review his case. He was in federal prison on an unrelated conviction when the commission made its finding in Grant’s Charlotte robbery case, according to a commission legal brief in the case.

Grant was convicted in 2007 of robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon, court records show.

The charges stemmed from the supposed robbery of a man and a woman outside of a Charlotte Circle K convenience store two years earlier, according to a North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission legal brief.

The man who said he was robbed identified Grant the next day from a police lineup of photos, according to the commission’s legal brief. Grant was then locked up until his 2007 trial. The woman who said she was robbed told police she was so shaken by the robbery that she probably couldn’t identify the robber, according to the brief.

Commission investigators later found evidence that the “victims” knew Grant and might have had other motives for telling police that Grant robbed them, court records show.

Grant was released from federal prison on the unrelated conviction in August 2018, federal prison records show. He could not be reached for comment this weekend.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.