Last-minute discovery prevents Innocence and Justice Clinic client from going free from prison

Photo of Professor Mark Rabil speaking with reporters following a hearing in Iredell County Superior Court for an Innocence and Justice Clinic client

Professor Mark Rabil talks to reporters following a hearing in Iredell County Superior Court for an Innocence and Justice Clinic client.

The following story, “Last minute discovery prevents Iredell man from going free from prison,” by Robert E. Lee of the Statesville Record & Landmark that ran May 20, 2016, involves a client of Wake Forest Law’s Innocence and Justice Clinic.

WGHP’s Bob Buckley and the Statesville Free News also reported this story.

Norman Satterfield is one step closer to freedom. But the jailhouse doors remain closed today.

As Satterfield completed the necessary paperwork for his release from prison after 37 years, his attorney learned that a robbery conviction could keep him behind bars two more years.

Satterfield came to Iredell County Superior Court Friday for a motion for appropriate relief hearing, which by all accounts would’ve given him credit for time served and allowed him to go free.

Satterfield was convicted of second-degree rape and first-degree burglary in 1979, and he’s been in state prison since.

Following the roughly 20-minute hearing Friday morning, Iredell County Superior Court Judge Julia Gullett signed a motion to free Satterfield, causing his mother, Ruby Satterfield Connor, to proclaim “hallelujah” in the quiet courtroom.

Then, there was a snag in the process.

A  question arose about a robbery conviction for a crime that occurred while Satterfield was out on bond for the rape and burglary charges, said his attorney Mark Rabil.

In September 1979, Satterfield used an unloaded gun to rob a bookstore in Iredell, Rabil said. He was convicted of common law robbery and sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to North Carolina Department of Correction records.

Rabil said representatives with the Innocence & Justice Clinic at Wake Forest School of Law thought that the robbery sentence was served alongside the rape and burglary sentence. A court clerk learned that Satterfield had not served the full sentence for the crime.

There was an ambiguous number attached to the robbery case and Rabil thought the sentence was complete. The discovery was surprising, Rabil added.

Satterfield will return to prison while the details are sorted out. Another court hearing will be scheduled as soon as next week, and Rabil said he would file a motion to consolidate the robbery sentence with the rape and burglary sentence.

“He’s disappointed, but will continue to maintain his faith like he has the past 37 years. But even today, we expected something wrong to happen,” Rabil said during an impromptu press conference in front of reporters from TV, newspaper and radio.

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