North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper reduces convicted murderer’s sentence, pardons 4 ex-offenders

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has commuted the sentence of Darnell Cherry Jr., 42, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999.
  • Cherry’s reduced sentence was attributed to his consistent employment in prison, obtaining a GED diploma and trade qualifications.
  • Cooper also issued pardons to four others who committed crimes in their youth.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday commuted the sentence of a man imprisoned since he was a teenager in connection with a fatal robbery and shooting and also issued pardons to four other people convicted of crimes committed in their youth.

The commutation went to Darnell Cherry Jr., 42, who was convicted in 1999 of second-degree murder, burglary and other counts related to the death and robbery of Robert Earl Edwards, Jr. and the robbery and shooting of Sonja Williams in Bertie County, according to Cooper’s office and state correction records.

The commutation takes effect Jan. 3. It followed a recommendation from a special board that Cooper created to review petitions from people sentenced to prison for crimes committed while they were under the age of 18. Cherry’s projected release date was otherwise set for 2035. Cooper’s news release cited Cherry for being consistently employed while incarcerated and obtaining his GED diploma and trade qualifications.


The pardons of forgiveness were issued to ex-offenders for crimes they committed in their teens or early 20s and whom Cooper wrote have had records of “responsible civic behavior and community service” since their convictions.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper speaks to the crowd during an election night event for Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley on May 17, 2022, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Cooper created a special board created to review petitions from individuals sentenced for crimes committed before the age of 18. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

One of the ex-offenders — Flemming Ragas, who was convicted of breaking and entering, larceny and possession of stolen goods in Lee and Cumberland counties in 1999 — served in the military in Iraq. Another pardon recipient — W. Samuel Fagg, convicted of possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine in Wake County in 2002 — has a doctoral degree and performs scientific research, Cooper’s release said.

Pardons of forgiveness are different from pardons of innocence and appear to bar the use of the convictions in subsequent criminal proceedings, according to an article on the University of North Carolina School of Government website.


Others receiving Wednesday’s pardons are Portia Bright-Pittman, who was convicted of accessory after the fact to armed robbery in Orange County in 2008, and Tramayne Hinton, convicted of robbery in Perquimans County in 1998.

Wednesday’s actions occurred after reviews by Cooper and staff within his office, the news release said.

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