Family, friends hope for pardon for North Carolina woman in prison for nearly 30 years

State - Regional

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — After no word from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Christmas Eve, family and friends of April Barber continue to hope for a Pardon of Innocence for her by the end of the year.

Barber has been serving a life sentence for the murder of her grandparents in 1991.

Just 15 years old at the time and pregnant with a 29-year-old man’s child, Barber had been living with her grandparents, Lillie and Aaron Barber, who had adopted her.

April and the Barbers did not agree on what to do about the child she was carrying. She and her boyfriend, Clinton Johnson, set fire to the Barber’s Wilkes County home, killing them both.

April Barber has been serving a life sentence since 1992. So far, attempts to appeal the decision and requests for a pardon have failed.

Barber gave birth to her son, Colt Johnson, who went on to attend Appalachian State University where he played on the football team the year it won the national championship.

Johnson spoke to CBS 17 about his mother from his home in California as he waited on any possible word from Cooper’s office.

“We talk every day,” he said. “That’s my best friend as she would say as well. We’re very similar being that we’ve never spent any amount of time together but we are very alike… almost like twins, somedays it’s like wow.”

Johnson has had his hopes up before. The nerves this time are no different.

“I’m impatient, anxious as always,” he said. “But continuing to go through this process is like you take some steps forward and it feels like you take more steps back. So always, just the anxiousness and just making sure that I’m prepared and she’s prepared for the next step when it happens.”

Attorney Kristin Parks represented Barber during her first appeal. Now with ACLU North Carolina, the two remain close.

“She always reminds me it’s not whether we win, but it’s our friendship,” Parks said. “It is the care we show each other, just that someone cares enough about her to stick with her has really meant a lot to her over the years. So I would say you know when I get down as a lawyer or someone that does policy work she is always the first one to pick me up.”

Parks said Barber was told by her original attorneys that if she pleaded guilty she would not face the death penalty. Current law doesn’t allow a death penalty option for 15-year-olds.

“For April to be released to us around this time would just mean even more,” Parks said. “I think she’s ready. I think her son has lived an entire life, 30 years without his mother, and he needs his mother, and she needs him, and they so desperately want to love each other and take care of each other.”

Johnson said his mother’s remorse and life during the last three decades should be taken into consideration. Barber has also been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“Look at how she’s conducted herself over the years, given the limited resources, how she’s continued education, how she’s always tried to progress in areas that she could, being how she conducts herself having MS, having limited resources, how she tries to minimize and manage that being that it’s such a severe disease,” Johnson said.

Barber is currently at the Anson Correctional Institution in Polkton, about 50 miles east of Charlotte.

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