Board unanimously rules NC lawyer violated ethics code

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Chris Mumma did violate ethical conduct, a panel ruled Thursday (WTVD)

A disciplinary panel with the North Carolina State Bar unanimously voted that a prominent attorney accused of lawyer misconduct committed an ethical violation.

The North Carolina State Bar accused Chris Mumma, of Durham, of violating rules of professional conduct in an innocence case involving Joseph Sledge, 70, who was imprisoned for almost 40 years for a double murder.

The panel decided her punishment Thursday afternoon. They announced she would be given a written admonition, which is the lowest form of punishment she could possibly get.

"I'm just glad it's over," Mumma said. "I just really wanted it to be over. It's interfered with my life. It's interfered with my family's life. It's interfered with my work, my staff. So it's time for us to get back to work. We have some really great cases we are working on and anxious to keep our work going."

Sledge was in Raleigh for the State Bar hearing to support the attorney who helped free him.

"She hadn't done nothing but try to prove a case [and] prove my innocence," Sledge said. "That's all she did."

The State Bar said that Mumma, director of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, violated rules as she pursued DNA testing on a water bottle that had been in the home of family members of men who she thought might be guilty of the murders of Josephine and Aileen Davis, a mother and daughter from Bladen County who were stabbed to death in 1976. Sledge was serving time for their murders.

Mumma reportedly took the water bottle without permission.

The chairman of the panel, Fred Morelock, said the phrase repeated in the deliberations of the three-member panel was "crossing the line."

During closing arguments Thursday, Mumma's attorney said she accidentally took the bottle and did not engage in deception.

Supporters said Mumma was right to pursue justice for Sledge.

"I think for her to go to extremes to see that justice is served, I admire her all the more for that," said Sidney Harr with the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong.

The DNA from the water bottle was not connected to the scene and Sledge was freed on other evidence.

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