Meet the Exonerees

Terence Garner

State: North Carolina
Date of Birth:
Incident Date: 04/25/1997
Age at Arrest: 16
Conviction Date: 1997
Age When Exonerated: 21
Exonerated Date: 2002
Time Served: 4
Conviction: Armed robbery, kidnapping, attempted murder
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: Yes

Case Details

Terence Garner was wrongfully convicted of armed robbery in 1997, when he was only sixteen years old. On April 25, 1997, there was an armed robbery in Johnston County, North Carolina. During the robbery, Alice Wise, a company employee, was shot twice, losing an eye in the process. Kendrick Henderson’s fingerprints were found at the scene, and upon arrest, he told officers that he and Keith Riddick had committed the crime with a third accomplice: Riddick’s cousin, whom Henderson called “Terrance.” When police investigated the address given to them by Riddick, no one was home. Instead of doing any additional surveillance, the officers left the scene. Later that evening, police arrested Terence Garner at a different address. Garner insisted from the very beginning that they had apprehended the “wrong Terrance.” Still, Wise identified Garner, despite the loss of her left eye. District Attorney Tom Lock agreed to give Riddick a lighter sentence for testifying against Garner, but Henderson maintained throughout the trial that they had the “wrong Terrance.” Several of Garner’s friends and relatives testified that he was playing basketball with them at the time of the robbery. Nevertheless, Garner was convicted on all charges. His story had not gone unheard, though: a Wayne County detective went to the original address and found Terrance DeLoach, Riddick’s cousin, who had been in prison in New York. Upon questioning, DeLoach confessed to the robbery, but recanted as soon as he was turned over to the Johnston County police. At this time, Riddick confessed that he had perjured himself to receive a lighter sentence, and that the third robber had been DeLoach, not Garner. Still, a motion to appeal was denied. This would have been the end of the line for Garner had it not been for producer Okra Bikel, who had heard the story. In 2002, Bikel produced a documentary based on the story, which drew public outrage. Within a few short weeks, the judgments were vacated and Garner was released on bond. District Attorney Tom Lock dismissed all charges against Garner after he passed a final polygraph test.