Durham assistant district attorney admonished for failing to notify rape victim of assaulter’s reduced sentence

In a private letter obtained by The News & Observer, the North Carolina State Bar committee admonished Durham Assistant District Attorney Michael Wallace on Feb. 1 for failing to notify a victim of rape before the perpetrator’s sentence was reduced, allowing him to leave prison.

The victim, who was then a nursing student at Duke, was assaulted by then-Durham High School student David Felton behind an East Campus dormitory in June 1972. Felton died in January 2024.

After Felton’s 1972 conviction under a now-defunct sentencing system, he served over five decades in prison. In November 2021, Wallace consented to Felton’s motion to vacate his rape conviction, which then-Judge Orlando Hudson agreed to, according to The News & Observer.

The victim was unaware of the ruling until she was contacted by a nonprofit agency investigating Felton’s claim of innocence in November 2023. 

She filed a grievance against Wallace with the state bar in February 2022, which cited Wallace’s failure to notify her both when the conviction was vacated and when Felton was released from prison.

According to The News & Observer, the victim also asserted in the grievance that Wallace claimed “the law forced the change” rather than explaining the role of the prosecutor in the decision.

The state bar’s Grievance Committee admonished Wallace on the grounds of a “minor violation of the rules of professional conduct.” The committee stated that there was “probable cause to believe” that the rules of professional conduct were breached and Wallace failed to "make a reasonable effort to notify" the victim before clearing Felton’s sentence.

The victim stated that while she understood why the DA’s office changed Felton’s sentence, she was hurt by the way they handled the process.

Durham District Attorney Deberry stated that staff has been trained on “crime victims’ rights and notifications,” according to The News & Observer. Furthermore, a new protocol mandates that staff update Deberry about victim notification in every case.

Ishita Vaid | Associate News Editor

Ishita Vaid is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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