That’s nearly 17 years. That’s also how long Greg Taylor was in prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
Taylor certainly has a story to tell. He’s been the subject of numerous articles and news stories, along with a WRAL documentary, also called 6,149 Days.
As a part of Leadership Raleigh 37’s Law Enforcement Day, we were privileged to hear in person from Taylor about his time in prison and how his case impacts the justice system.
Speaking to our class, Taylor was joined by Chris Mumma, the executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence. She took up his case and worked to get Taylor exonerated.
In 1993, Taylor was convicted of the murder of a woman whose body was found about 100 yards from where Taylor’s SUV had gotten stuck in the mud near downtown Raleigh. Mumma said there was a blood spot inside the wheel well of the SUV. She said the blood was later determined to not even be human, but, at the time, it led to his conviction.
She told us how Taylor’s case and the cases of other exonerated defendants highlight the need for more improvements in the justice process. As for Taylor, since being released in 2010, he has been enjoying life with his family. He told us that he had been trick-or-treating with grandchildren for Halloween the night before.
He recalled his time in prison, constantly walking around asking the question to himself, “Why am I here?” While in prison, he ran the library, selecting books for other inmates to read.
“I got to know the types of books each inmate liked and would select what they would read based off their interests,” he said.
We all thanked Taylor for sharing his incredible story, one that was eye-opening for all of us.
But, that was just one part of our Law Enforcement Day.
We began with a presentation from an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency.
He talked with us about the impact of illegal drugs, both nationally and in North Carolina. Nationally, he said there were about 74,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. last year. That is about five times the number of murders that took place nationally during the same time frame.
He showed us how some suspects would hide drugs they were attempting to smuggle. In some cases, the drugs were built into vehicles.
We also heard from an officer with Raleigh Police, who works in the gang suppression unit.
She told us how gangs in Raleigh will use their own language and even have their own alphabet.
“These gangs are creative and intelligent,” she said. “They have a detailed organizational culture.”
Her stories made us aware of things happening in our own city that we simply did not know.
We then boarded a bus and went to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Driver Training Center. We witnessed an exercise where there was a simulated police chase. The trooper in pursuit used a PIT maneuver to cause the fleeing driver to lose control and stop.
Next, we got hands on! We got to participate in a training exercise where we attempted to arrest a suspect who was wanted for outstanding warrants. One of the Highway Patrol members acted as the suspect who threatened us when we tried to arrest him. It was our job to determine when would be the appropriate time to draw our guns and fire. We didn’t all get to participate in the exercise, but from what I’ve heard, not too many of us will be heading to the academy anytime soon.
We also saw the K9 units do what they do best and find objects that were hidden. Some of us got to take a ride in a vehicle that drove through a simulated rain storm. We learned what to do when our cars lose control. We also got up-close experiences with a motorcycle course and seeing a Highway Patrol helicopter.
It was alarming, though, when we heard how the Highway Patrol has a shortage of troopers across the state. Even as our state continues to grow rapidly, the Highway Patrol members who spoke with us said there is a shortage of 200 troopers.
Later in the day, we also learned about the difficulties in recruiting and retaining correction workers to staff our prisons. The last stop of our day was a tour of Central Prison in Raleigh.
We learned how Central Prison is the only maximum security prison in North Carolina. It is the admission point into prison for men who have been sentenced to 20 or more years. It also houses the men in North Carolina who sit on death row. I spoke with one inmate who was working in the prison canteen. Later, I found out he is on death row.
Inmates in the prison will work in a variety of jobs, including cooks, janitors, barbers, and clerks. They do get a small salary in prison, which they can use to purchase snacks and other items.
Central Prison has its own medical and mental health center. It houses Bible studies and worship services, along with recreation areas. Needless to say, security is very tight inside of Central Prison.
We closed out our day hearing directly from some of the inmates. Several shared stories with us how they have young children. One inmate told me, every chance he gets, he tells his children to make the right choices in life.
We’ve heard stories from previous Leadership Raleigh participants how the Law Enforcement Day would be one to remember. Our day did not disappoint! It was an exhilarating, yet thought-provoking day. On behalf of the rest of my class, I know we want to thank everyone who planned this day, and those who shared their stories and insight with us. We can’t wait to see what is next at our Human Services Day in December.