The state NAACP will hold its annual conference in Raleigh this weekend with U.S. Sen. Corey Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, and others among the guest speakers.
One notable politician not on the guest list this year, though, is Gov. Roy Cooper.
The Rev. William J. Barber II, who will be leading the convention for the last time as the organization’s president, sent a letter to Cooper in late September informing the Democratic governor of the reason the NAACP’s traditional invitation had not been extended to him this year.
It has to do with the case of Dontae Sharpe.
Sharpe was imprisoned in 1995 on a murder charge, but has maintained all along that he is innocent, choosing to reject plea deals that would have set him free years ago.
In May, the Pitt County district attorney announced that her office was conducting another investigation into the case that led to Sharpe’s conviction.
For several years, the state NAACP has called for an independent investigation into the case and has turned on more than one occasion to Cooper for help.
Cooper served as attorney general for 16 years before taking office last January as governor.
“Dontae Sharpe deserves a gubernatorial pardon and to live in freedom with his name restored,” Barber said in his letter to Cooper. “Your office has held his pardon application in your possession and under review since the day you took office. His pleas have been before you for years as Attorney General, when thousands asked you to appoint an independent prosecutor. Our system has failed Dontae. Yet, your power and his life are intertwined. It is time to transform this entanglement from a curse to a blessing.”
Barber told Cooper in the letter that Sharpe’s mother would be at the three-day conference. On Thursday, participants in the conference held a candlelight vigil in Raleigh, challenging Cooper and new Attorney General Josh Stein to free Sharpe.
Cooper responded to Barber in a letter dated Sept. 27, expressing his disappointment about not being invited to the convention.
“I always enjoy talking with members about a wide variety of concerns,” Cooper said. “These conversations often help me and my office make a positive difference for communities across North Carolina. I will continue to fight for strong public schools, more health care, elimination of voter suppression, better paying jobs, higher wages and many other efforts about which we agree.”