New York Daily News: By Joseph Wilkinson – A North Carolina man was finally pardoned Friday after spending 24 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Dontae Sharpe, 46, had been a free man since 2019 but still needed the pardon to secure his freedom — and give him the right to claim up to $750,000 for the wrongful conviction.

“You know, people say I want the money. Yeah, the money we did, we deserve the money,” Sharpe told Raleigh ABC affiliate WTVD. “Not just me, but anybody that’s been exonerated deserves that money. And it’s not just money you get, you get a peace of mind and you get a weight lifted off the shoulder, you know, from carrying around that burden of people still looking at you like you might be a murderer.”

Protesters had rallied outside Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive mansion for more than 50 consecutive days and nights to demonstrate in support of Sharpe’s pardon, WTVD reported.

Sharpe was just 19 when he was convicted in 1995 for the murder of George Radcliffe on Feb. 11, 1994, in Greenville, NC Police at the time said it was a drug deal gone bad.

But the key witness in the case, a 15-year-old girl, admitted not long after the trial that she made everything up and never saw Sharpe shoot Radcliffe. She said the cops gave her a story and she simply repeated it.

Despite that, Sharpe remained behind bars for years as he worked to appeal the case. He finally got an evidence hearing in 2019, when a medical examiner testified that the girl’s initial story was “medically and scientifically impossible” based on the physical evidence from the scene. Sharpe walked free after that hearing.

“The only way forward for me is to bring about change in the criminal justice system,” he told the Washington Post. “It’s a slow process, but I’m 46, not 86. I got time to do things.”