Sunday, June 07, 2015

Black brothers with low IQs who were coerced into confessing to raping and killing 11-year-old girl released after being wrongfully imprisoned for three decades

Two brothers were pardoned and will receive more than $1million from the state of North Carolina after they were wrongfully imprisoned for three decades in the killing of an eleven-year-old girl.

For one of them, the windfall of cash isn't the issue. 'It ain't about money,' said Henry McCollum, 51, who, along with his 47-year-old brother Leon Brown, was pardoned by Governor Pat McCrory.

'It was about just being able to see that I was innocent of a crime I was charged with. It was just a blessing to be out here, to live a normal life.'

McCrory's office announced Friday that he had signed the pardons. The pardon qualifies each of the brothers for $50,000 from the state for every year they were imprisoned, with a limit of $750,000 each.

The compensation still needs to be approved by a state agency, but it is considered a formality. It's not clear exactly when they could get the money.

Defense attorneys have said the brothers were scared teenagers who had low IQs when they were questioned by police and coerced into confessing to killing and raping eleven-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983. McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15.

Based largely on their confessions, both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned. Upon retrial, McCollum was again sent to death row, while Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life.

The path to freedom began in early September after a judge vacated their convictions and ordered their release, citing new DNA evidence that points to another man killing and raping the girl.

The DNA from cigarette butts that were found doesn't match Brown or McCollum and fingerprints taken from a beer can at the scene weren't theirs either. No physical evidence connects them to the crime, a judge and prosecutor acknowledged last fall.

The inmate whose DNA was on the cigarette is already serving a life sentence for a similar rape and slaying that happened less than a month after Sabrina's killing.

Current Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt, who didn't prosecute the men, has said he's considering whether to reopen the case and charge the other man.

The cigarette butt was tested as part of the recent investigation by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, a one-of-its-kind investigative panel.

Original report here

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