Conviction dismissed, Robeson County man freed from prison after more than 4 years

Conviction dismissed, Robeson County man freed from prison after more than 4 years (WPDE)

Despite being sentenced to 30 years behind bars, 44-year-old Timothy Britt always believed he would one day be freed.

Back in 2013, Britt was convicted of first degree sexual offense with a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and taking indecent liberties with a minor.

On Nov. 15, 2017, about four years later, a judge dismissed Britt's conviction and ordered his immediate release from Scotland Correctional Institution.

Now, as a newly freed man, Britt said he feels like he has a second chance at life.

"Trying to breathe. Trying to get my life back. Getting everything back in line. You've got to pick up. You got to get back on your feet. Do what you need to do. Go back to work. And, try to put this behind you," said Britt.

Defense Attorney L. Allyn Sharp took on Britt's case to have his conviction vacated back in January 2017.

Sharp said, after looking at Britt's file, she was convinced he was wrongly convicted.

"The real sad thing is, for me, about all of this, of course this is a happy ending for Timothy, but we can't forget that he lost four and a half years of his life to prison at Scotland Correctional. And, this was something in my opinion that was completely preventable if both sides had just done their job," said Sharp.

Sharp filed an 88-page Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) back in October for Britt's conviction to be vacated.

Sharp based her case on the following claims:

  • The State failed to disclose Brady Evidence.
  • Britt's trial lawyer provided constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel.
  • Britt's appellate lawyer provided constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel.
  • Newly discovered evidence.
  • Britt is innocent.

Sharp said she also found that the case was poorly investigated by the Robeson County Sheriff's Office. Britt was tricked by investigators into signing a pre-typed false confession, according to Sharp.

"Timothy reported to me that he never been able to read any of these documents that he had been tricked into signing," said Sharp.

She said Britt's case had a lot of similarities to that of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown.

A North Carolina judge overturned the convictions of Brown and McCollum in 2014 for the murder of an 11-year-old girl in 1983 in the Red Springs community of Robeson County.

The Center for Death Penalty Litigation filed a Motion for Relief on behalf of the men saying DNA evidence supported their claims of innocence in the rape and death of the child pointed instead to the guilt of another man who committed a similar crime in Robeson County less than a month after the little girl died.

Sharp said, "Wrongful convictions, we don't hear a lot about them. Being overturned. And when we do, they are often cases in which the defendant have been incarcerated for decades. Henry McCollum, Leon brown, 31 years. For Henry on death row before being exonerated. And in that case he was exonerated only through DNA evidence right. And so this was a case where there was no physical evidence against Timothy (Britt) to begin with. Which at the trial level that makes the case, defense case stronger. Right, there's no physical evidence. But from a post conviction standpoint, it often makes it more difficult to prove someone is innocent, if you don't have that physical evidence to exonerate down. And so I would you say that this is a case of hope. And I hope that it will give that to other people who are similarly situated. Other people who've been wrongfully convicted. Who thinks that there's just not a chance for them. I think this is a story of hope for them."

Britt said he held on to hope everyday that he spent inside his prison cell, even when the odds were stacked against him.

"I always had hoped that I was going to get out. I never lost hope. But, you lose hope in the justice system, the ones you look up to, the ones you expect to protect you and serve you. They are the ones that let you down. So, that something that we as a community need to look into. We need to know what's going on in our justice system. And we need to clean our justice system up. Because I'm one of the fortunate ones that I was able to get out after four and a half years. There's a lot of people sitting in prison that may never get out, and because of the people we had that supposed to be protecting and serving us," said Britt.

Britt has a GoFund me account set up to help him get back on his feet. You can access that account by clicking here.

Britt said he's thankful for Sharp and his family who supported him during his time behind bars and he is looking forward to moving on with his life.

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