Citing Withheld Evidence In Charlotte Homicide Case, Judge Frees Death Row Inmate

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A North Carolina man who was convicted 12 years ago in a woman’s stabbing death has been freed by a judge who cited the discovery of evidence that could have strengthened his defense but wasn’t shared with his attorneys.

Michael Wayne Sherrill, 65, convicted for the 1984 fatal stabbing and rape of Cynthia Dotson, left Central Prison in Raleigh on Wednesday, a news outlet reported.

Under an agreement between the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office and the defense team, the judge set aside Sherrill’s death sentence for the murder and rape of Dotson. Instead, Sherrill pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, second-degree rape and second-degree arson and received a 20-year sentence.

Among the problems cited in the consent order was a missing fingerprint taken from the scene and the fact that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police had destroyed a rape kit in 1985 with material collected from Dotson’s body, calling the handling of DNA evidence into question, according to court records.

Prosecutors with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday stressed that they still believe Sherrill killed Dotson, but they agreed to his release “in the interest of justice,” according to a written statement.