Christine Mumma, a lawyer who gets teary-eyed when talking about her efforts to free the wrongfully convicted, became emotional on Tuesday as she testified in her defense at a N.C. State Bar disciplinary panel hearing.
Mumma, an attorney in North Carolina since March 1999, has been fighting professional misconduct accusations by the organization that oversees lawyers in this state.
On the second day of a disciplinary panel hearing, Mumma's team of lawyers began putting evidence on in her defense after a full day and a half of listening to bar prosecutors lay out their case.
The allegations are tied to Mumma's work toward freeing Joseph Sledge from the state prisons after he was wrongfully convicted of a double murder.
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Sledge, exonerated with the help of Mumma's attention to his case, has been at the N.C. State Bar headquarters in downtown Raleigh, where Mumma and her team of high-profile attorneys have spent the past two days offering a narrative that they hope will exonerate her.
Sledge and others freed with Mumma’s assistance have speculated that Mumma is being targeted by a judicial system whose tarnishes she helped expose.
In October 2013, while investigating Sledge's claims of innocence, Mumma and a worker from the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence went to the home of the sister of two brothers who had been suspects in the case years earlier.
After failing to persuade the woman to provide a DNA sample that could be tested to include or exclude her brothers as suspects, Mumma picked up her note pad and other items she had brought into the home and grabbed a water bottle, too.
Once she was at her car, she realized the bottle wasn't hers. She decided to keep it, she said, because she was persuaded that Sledge was innocent. If DNA on the bottle matched DNA from the crime scene, Mumma said she thought she would have a strong enough case to persuade Jon David, the District Attorney in Bladen County, to consider relief for Sledge.
“I thought about the potential the bottle might have for Joseph,” Mumma testified on Tuesday. “I was continually asking for DNA to get Joseph home.”
Tests of the bottle did not turn up DNA that aided Mumma in her fight for Sledge, but he was exonerated based on other evidence.
Mumma later told the state bar about her action. She contacted the bar after being told by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, which also was investigating the Sledge case, and David, the district attorney from the county where the Sledge case was based, that they would file a complaint if she did not report the action herself.
The hearing on Tuesday also touched on a portion of the bar complaint that involved documents that Mumma provided to a reporter at The News & Observer.
Mumma told the panel hearing her case that she provided a digital version of a hearing transcript to Mandy Locke, a staff writer who had been chronicling the Sledge case, unaware that she would print out a copy for another N&O reporter.
The bar prosecutors have raised questions about whether the transcript was a public document.
Mumma’s attorneys contend the transcript was part of the public record.
Bar prosecutors began their cross-examination of Mumma late Tuesday afternoon. They plan to pick up their questions on Wednesday morning.