Glen Edward Chapman (pictured) spent 14 years in jail, much of that time on North Carolina’s death row, after he was convicted of two murders in Hickory in 1994. That conviction, however, was reversed in 2008, due to diligent work by a legal team (see “Sprung” in this week’s Mountain Xpress) that has just been announced as winners of the WNC American Civil Liberties Union’s 2008 Evan Mahaney Champion of Civil Liberties Award, which they will receive on June 7.
Marion attorney Frank Goldsmith and Chapel Hill attorney Jessica Leaven share the award spotlight with mitigation specialist Pamela Laughon — a psychology professor at UNCA who brought student volunteers into the research — as well as Asheville-based private investigator Lenora Topp. The case for Chapman’s release was built on a series of legal missteps uncovered by the team, including evidence never submitted in his original trial and a confession by another person.
Previous recipients of the civil-liberties award, which is named in honor of its original, 2003 recipient — the late journalist and ACLU activist Evan Mahaney — include Deborah Miles (2007), who founded the Center for Diversity Education at UNCA; local clergy members Rev. Joseph Hoffman of the First Congregational Church of Christ in Asheville, Rev. Mark Ward of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville and Rev. Howard Hanger of the Jubilee! Community of Asheville (2006); The Asheville Global Report (2005); and the Asheville Women in Black (2004).
This year’s foursome will receive their awards at the WNC Chapter’s annual meeting and awards luncheon on Saturday, June 7, 10 a.m. to noon, at BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce St. in downtown Asheville. The event is open to the public; call 650-0484 or 252-7666 for ticket information.
— Nelda Holder, associate editor