The North Carolina State Bar on Monday filed a complaint against Chris Mumma, the executive director of the Durham-based North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, alleging that she violated professional conduct rules in a case that set an innocent man free.
The alleged violation did not factor into the end result in the case of Joseph Sledge, who spent nearly four decades behind bars for a double-murder he did not commit. He was exonerated in January by a panel of judges after a jailhouse informant recanted his testimony and new evidence proved Sledge’s innocence. Mumma served as Sledge’s lawyer.
The State Bar complaint alleges that in 2013, during the Sledge investigation, Mumma visited the sister of other suspects in the case. The sister apparently declined to provide Mumma with a DNA sample. The complaint says that Mumma left the house with a water bottle that perhaps contained relevant DNA evidence, and sent it to a lab for testing.
The Bar accused Mumma of using “methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of a third person,” and “engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”
Mumma worked on the Sledge case for 10 years.
In February the INDY gave Mumma a Citizen Award for her work on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. “What Chris has done for our state is pretty incredible,” Cheryl Sullivan, a staff attorney at the Center for Actual Innocence, told INDY reporter Jane Porter. “She has helped so many people who will probably never know that she was the one behind these reforms.”