- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

DUDLEY, N.C. (AP) - A man who spent more than 20 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit now is trying to clean up another part of his past in hopes of getting a job, allowing him to regain some semblance of the life he had before his arrest.

His lack of a driver’s license is standing between Larry Lamb and his ability to build the life he wants in Massachusetts, complete with a job and a car and home that he hopes to own.

With a license, “maybe I can go back and begin to rebuilding my life as far as purchasing a vehicle, even a home,” Lamb said in an interview at a relative’s home in Dudley, where he visited for Thanksgiving. “Because that’s who I was before this.”

When Lamb, 65, was released in August 2013, he left prison with his family, supporters and $45 from the state Department of Corrections in his pocket. The home he had owned in Mount Olive before his arrest in August 1992 had been repossessed. The green Pontiac Bonneville that he gave to a friend was long gone. And in January 2014, Gov. Pat McCrory denied a request for a pardon of innocence, which would have provided him with $750,000, said Lamb’s attorney Chris Mumma.

Pardon decisions are not public record, and a McCrory spokesman declined to discuss Lamb’s case.

What was still alive and well were his tickets for driving while impaired and driving while his license was revoked. The Division of Motor Vehicles has a process for regaining a revoked license, but it sometimes requires installation of a mechanism to check a driver’s blood alcohol content before allowing access to a car, something that Lamb can’t afford.

Now he hopes to hire a lawyer to represent him at another hearing. He can’t afford one - of his $899 a month in Social Security, he says a third goes to rent - so friends have set up a gofundme site to raise $2,500 to pay an attorney who has agreed to represent Lamb at a reduced rate. As of Thursday morning, supporters had raised $320.

His last DWI was in 1988, and Lamb said he hasn’t drunk alcohol since Labor Day 1991. “I just surrendered my all to the Lord,” he said. “I made a decision that I would live for him for the rest of my life.”

Lamb was one of three men convicted in the death of bootlegger Leamon Grady, whose body was found Feb. 28, 1987, in his Duplin County home. He had been shot once in the chest. No gun was ever found, and there was no physical evidence linking Lamb or two his co-defendants to the crime. Lamb was sentenced to life behind bars.

One witness who said she was with the three men when they killed Grady later retracted her testimony and said a detective had coached her. The other two men, one of whom was sentenced to death, were released before Lamb.

Lamb now would like to get a job with the After Incarceration Support Systems program that’s part of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office in Springfield, Massachusetts. Sally Johnson Van Wright, coordinator of the program, said Lamb “would be at the top of the list” for any job opening if he had a driver’s license.

Even at a second hearing, Lamb could be required again to get the blood alcohol testing system, which he still cannot afford. DMV spokeswoman Marge Howell said the system costs $1,200 a year, plus the installation charge.

When he went to prison, Lamb knew he hadn’t cleared his driving record but thought that after spending more than 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, getting a license wouldn’t be so hard.

“You have to accept it and do the best you can,” he said. “And that’s the way I am, whatever happened to me, it’s no need for me to be angry because anger is not going to change anything.”

“But then I come out exonerated with nothing. That’s not right morally right. But it is what it is,” he said. “We can’t change the past. All we can do is accept what we have now and move forward, making memories for the future.”

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Online:

https://www.gofundme.com/helpLarryLamb

About AISS: https://www.hcsdmass.org/WebsiteContentforAISS.pdf

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc . Her work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/martha-waggoner


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