NEWTON, N.C. – A man locked up for 25 years is closer to freedom after being convicted of rape.
A large white van pulled up to the old court house in downtown Newton.
This is the ride that 66-year-old Willie James Grimes probably never thought he would take, a chance to have his name restored because of 1987 rape conviction.
"I still can't do a lot of the things I want to," said Grimes just before the hearing by a special panel of three judges to determine if Grimes' rape conviction should be overturned.
"I have to register as a sex-offender... I'm not a sex offender." he said.
Since his conviction, Grimes has lived with the stigma of a rape conviction.
He spent 25 years behind bars, all the while claiming his innocence. He served his sentence and was released in May, but he still wanted to clear his name because he maintained his innocence.
The three judge panel will hear evidence from Grimes defense team that they hope will exonerate him.
Robert Campbell said that there are six key areas that they will present to the judge which should show that Grimes did not commit the rape of the elderly Hickory woman.
Grimes' defense attorneys will also present evidence pointing to another man. The defense said it will show that there were several mistakes in the initial trial, including using a hair sample that did not 100 percent match Grimes.
Witness’ testimony provided an alibi for Grimes.
The Defense also will introduce new evidence of a fingerprint found on a banana at the scene of the crime.
"This will show that Willie Grimes is innocent of a crime that he spent 25 years of his life in jail for," said Campbell.
"I'm just happy for this day, everyone is very hopeful," said Grimes.