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The state of North Carolina took 44 years away from an innocent man and has now only compensated him with $750,000.
In August, North Carolina finally released Ronnie Long after serving 44 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was convicted by an all-white jury of raping a white woman in 1976. After decades of his case going back and forth in the courts, his sentence was finally vacated in August.
Roy Cooper, the Democratic Governor of North Carolina, after years of begging by Long’s lawyers, finally pardoned the 64-year-old in December. Sadly, the state of North Carolina will only compensate wrongful convictions up to $750,000, which Long has finally received.
Long told The Charlotte Observer about the compensation, “Fair? What’s fair? Ask yourself that question when these people took away your 20s, your 30s, your 40s, your 50s and they started in on your 60s.”
He continued, “Print this in the paper. Is Ronnie home yet? You asked me what’s fair? I got a dead mother and father in the ground. You tell me what’s fair.”
Long was never able to reunite with his mother, Elizabeth Long, who died on July 11 at 89 years old, which was about a month before he was finally released. It was her prayer to see her son as a free man again before she passed away, which unfortunately never happened.
Long also told The Charlotte Observer, “Everything that’s happened here ain’t being overlooked. Hell no, I ain’t satisfied. You wouldn’t be either, if you were in my position. You wouldn’t be either.”
In May of 1976, 19-year-old Ronnie Long went to court for a trespassing charge in Concord, North Carolina. He could have never predicted doing so would have led to being accused and identified in the courtroom as the rapist of a white woman.
Long was pointed out by the victim because, according to his attorney Jamie Lau, she testified “he was the only one in the courtroom that looked remotely similar to the person who had attacked her.”
The victim, who passed away in 2016, originally told law enforcement the attacker was “yellow,” indicating that he was a light-skinned, Black man and she “never mentioned any facial hair on her attacker.”
Long had a beard, a mustache and is a dark-skinned man.
Additionally, out of the 43 fingerprints police collected from the rape scene, none of the prints matched Long’s, the Charlotte Observer reported. Nonetheless, he was quickly convicted by an all-white jury.
In May, Long’s lawyer defended his case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which included 15 members of the nation’s second highest court.
According to the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina Judge James Wynn slammed the case by saying, “Prosecutors clearly had evidence that any defense counsel in the world, not only in 1976 but (in) the history of this country, would have wanted or needed and which should have been supplied. And yet, we did not provide it.”
Ronnie Long was finally released August 27, 2020. He spent 44 years, three months and 17 days behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.