The Honorable I. Beverly Lake Jr. was the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and a state legislator with an exemplary career of public service. Having graduated with a law degree from Wake Forest University in 1960, he began in private practice and later served as North Carolina’s deputy attorney general from 1969 to 1976. He subsequently served two terms in the state Senate, was elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court in 1994 and became chief justice in 2000, a role in which he served until 2006. As a state senator, he was ranked as one of the most effective members of the General Assembly by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.
In 2002 he founded the nonprofit North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, which led to the creation of a state agency called the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. This commission has reviewed hundreds of innocence claims, in some cases exonerating persons who had been wrongfully convicted. These cases have led to improvements in our judicial system, such as requirements for recording interrogations, more rigorous standards for eyewitness identifications from lineups or photo arrays and guidelines for preserving DNA evidence. The commission was the first of its kind in the nation and served as a model for similar efforts in other states.
Lake passed away on Sept. 12, 2019. Just prior to his passing, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conferred on Isaac Beverly Lake Jr. the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa for his outstanding accomplishment in public service.