by Beth McNichol ’ 95
Serendipity, fate, the hand of God — whatever you want to call it — brought Christine Mumma ’ 85 to this table in this courtroom on this day, holding Greg Taylor’s hand, wait- ing to hear if he finally would be freed after
17 years of wrongful incarceration for murder.
Mumma, the executive director of the N.C. Center
on Actual Innocence, wasn’t new to those forces. As
she saw it, serendipity had introduced her to her husband, Mitch Mumma; fate had steered her to leave a
corporate finance job to go to law school; and no
doubt it was the power of whatever you want to call
faith that would get her through the next six minutes.
Greg Taylor had known luck, too, but it was of a
darker kind, one that had swept the former drug addict
away from his wife and his 9-year-old daughter in
1991. That was when police arrested him for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas after he showed up near the
crime scene in Southeast Raleigh to retrieve his truck,
which had been stuck in the mud the night before.
Two years later, when he was sentenced to life in
prison for killing Thomas — a prostitute with whom
the prosecution posited that he had quarreled over sex
— he learned the meaning of “wrong place, wrong
time.” For the better part of the next two decades, Taylor’s family would spend more than $140,000 in efforts
to prove his innocence, only to watch all of his legal
avenues expire, all of his access to the traditional courts
close. His marriage ended. His daughter’s life went on
— graduations, a wedding, a son — while his life
seemed permanently stalled.
He had nothing left to save him from his incorrect
reality. He had only this: A woman who believed in his
cause, who put her good fortune to work for those
with worse, expecting and asking
for no money in return. A
woman who fought to create
the groundbreaking N.C. Inno-
cence Inquiry Commission that
allowed his case back into this
special court, where three judges
would have to unanimously
agree, after hearing evidence,
that he had not committed the
crime. That he was innocent.
Taylor held Mumma’s hand, and their heads met in
a prayerful bow at the desk. While they waited for
Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ’ 65 to read
the court’s finding — minutes that seemed almost as
long as the six years Mumma had worked to free Taylor — Mumma became more convinced they had lost,
while Taylor simply prayed that his heart would not
give out. They waited together for a moment that had
The toughest person in the state’s
criminal justice system isn’t
with the defense or the prosecution.
Christine Mumma ’ 85 is with the truth,
and she has spent a decade fighting
to strengthen protection for the innocent.