Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and a professor in the UNC School of Law, faced charges from the North Carolina State Bar for acting dishonestly during an investigation to exonerate Joseph Sledge, who was convicted for two counts of second degree murder in 1978.
In October 2013, Mumma went to Marie Andrus’ house to request a DNA sample — which Andrus denied — in an attempt to link Andrus’ two brothers to the crime and exonerate Sledge, according to the Bar’s complaint. Mumma left with a water bottle from Andrus’ home, which she DNA tested without Andrus’ knowledge or consent.
According to the Bar, Mumma infringed on Andrus’ right to privacy.
Richard Rosen, a UNC law professor who also sits on the board of directors for Mumma’s organization, said District Attorney Jon David brought the complaint against Mumma.
“It is disturbing that they are going after somebody who has spent her life both trying to free the innocent and actually freeing the innocent,” Rosen said.
He said David represented the district where Sledge was convicted.
According to Mumma’s response to the complaint, Mumma felt that David — in bringing the complaint against her — sought to undermine evidence of Sledge’s innocence.
“Ms. Mumma had been begging him for months to look into the case. He did not even take the time to look at the evidence she sent him,” Rosen said.
Rosen said David did not meet with the deputy director of the State Bureau of Investigation to file the complaint against Mumma until after she sent him an email saying she had the water bottle tested for DNA and that the results were negative.
He said minor disciplinary infractions like Mumma’s are usually handled by a low-level committee and resolved quickly — but her case was referred to a different disciplinary committee.
She received four charges — three related to the water bottle incident and the other for giving an uncertified transcript to a journalist, who then used it to write an article. Rosen said the Bar panel dismissed all of the charges except one. For the remaining charge, she received only the lowest level disciplinary action for a minor sanction.
“Basically, we had a four-day hearing, which shouldn’t have happened at all,” Rosen said.
Mumma said the hearing turned her week into a difficult one, but she is already working on new cases.
“I’m a little shell-shocked,” she said. “I think it’ll take me a little while to regain my footing, but we have some very good cases. I’m just looking forward to being dedicated to our mission and not having to be sidetracked with this anymore.”