The Dontae Sharpe Freedom Campaign was a [fight] with a two-pronged strategic approach: Organizing and Legal Strategy. The campaign was led by grassroots movements of community members and organizations who created education tools to inform the local community on the details of the case and then organized and mobilized these communities to come together around collective calls of action to the Pitt County District Attorney’s Office and the Governor’s Office of North Carolina. Organization’s like Color of Change assisted by providing a platform to lift up Dontae’s story at a national level by inviting people across the country to sign a petition toward Dontae’s new trial and release.The Duke Wrongful Conviction Clinic provided the legal representation for Dontae in this case for years during the fight to have a fair trial to prove his innocence.
In August of 2019, after finally being granted a new trial, Dontae was exonerated in court and walked out a free man. Though he had been offered deals in the past that would have allowed him to be released from prison earlier through an admission of guilt, Dontae stood fast in his innocence and left the prison on his terms. Following his release, Dontae joined the Forward Justice team as the founding Fellow in the Returning in Service and Excellence (RISE) Fellowship, and has become an advocate and leader for criminal justice reform. Dontae speaks at colleges across the state about his experience, the corruption in the criminal legal system, and the need for widespread reform to stop the wrongful convictions that disregard truth and justice and destroy lives.
While Dontae has gained his freedom, the fight still continues. We are now petitioning NC Governor Roy Cooper to issue a full pardon to Dontae Sharpe to give him the fresh start that he deserves.