North Carolina Man Awarded $25M in Historic 44-Year Wrongful Imprisonment Case

Ronnie Long, a Black man from North Carolina, has been awarded a historic $25 million settlement after spending a staggering 44 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The settlement, one of the largest recorded for a wrongful conviction, follows Long’s exoneration more than three years ago.

Details of the Settlement

The city of Concord, located approximately 25 miles northeast of Charlotte, settled the civil lawsuit with Long for $22 million. Additionally, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, having previously settled for $3 million, contributed to this landmark resolution.

Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, representing Long, was responsible for making it the second-largest in the context of wrongful convictions. Long’s criminal attorney, Jamie Lau, remarked on the celebratory nature of the day for Long.

Lau emphasized that while the settlement could never replace the years of freedom unjustly taken from Long, it was an essential step toward addressing the severe injustices he endured.

Lau stated in a phone interview, “It’s, obviously, a celebratory day today knowing that Ronnie’s going to have his means met for the rest of his life with this settlement. It’s been a long road to get to this point, so that’s a great outcome.”

Acknowledging Injustice

The city of Concord publicly apologized to Long for the grave injustices he suffered. The apology expressed deep remorse for the harm caused to Long, his family, and the community.

It acknowledged the extraordinary loss of freedom and time Long endured due to the wrongful conviction, stressing that no amount of money could fully compensate for the losses incurred.

The city’s official statement read, “We are deeply remorseful for the past wrongs that caused tremendous harm to Mr. Long, his family, friends and our community. Mr. Long suffered the extraordinary loss of his freedom and a substantial portion of his life because of this conviction.”

“While there are no measures to fully restore to Mr. Long and his family all that was taken from them, through this agreement, we are doing everything in our power to right the past wrongs and take responsibility.”

A Historic Settlement

Long’s criminal attorney, Jamie Lau, acknowledged the historic nature of the settlement but also emphasized the limitations of financial compensation in truly delivering justice.

Lau stated, “Have we found justice in this case? Absolutely not. No amount of money will ever compensate Ronnie for all that he lost, but this is a big step forward for him.”

Sonya Pfeiffer, one of Long’s civil attorneys, revealed that a public apology was an essential component of Long’s settlement demand. “All of us on Ronnie’s team were very pleased with the responsiveness by the city of Concord. He also got a private apology, a direct apology, which was meaningful, too,” Pfeiffer said.

Background of the Wrongful Conviction

In 1976, an all-white jury convicted Long at the age of 21 for the alleged rape of a white woman. His trial was marred by numerous irregularities, starting with issues in jury selection.

His attorneys argued that Black potential jurors were systematically removed before the jury summonses were issued. Furthermore, there was no physical evidence linking Long to the crime, and critical evidence, including a rape kit, mysteriously disappeared.

Long’s attorneys detailed numerous issues with his trial, beginning with jury selection. They said that before jury summonses were issued, the chief of police and the Cabarrus County sheriff had removed nearly all of the Black potential jurors, his attorneys said.

They argued there was no physical evidence tying Long to the rape and the burglary and that he did not match the original description of the suspect — a “yellow or really light-skinned Black male.”

A rape kit collected at the hospital and provided to Concord police disappeared and has never been found, Long’s attorneys said.

They went on to say that the prosecution’s main piece of evidence was the victim’s identification of Long weeks after the attack and that it was “the product of a suggestive identification procedure arranged by the police to target Long.”

Defence Accuses Officers of False Testimony

There were also numerous pieces of evidence from the scene, including suspect hair and 43 fingerprints, that could have helped exonerate him, according to his attorneys. The material, which they said did not belong to Long, was tested by investigators but not disclosed.

The attorneys also accused Concord police officers of giving false testimony about the evidence at Long’s trial. The Concord Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

In February 2020, Long appealed his case, leading to a pivotal ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2020. The court determined that Long’s due process rights were violated at trial, resulting in the overturning of his conviction.

Governor Roy Cooper subsequently pardoned Long in December 2020. Long received $750,000 from the state in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

Since his release, Long has actively contributed to criminal justice reform, utilizing part of his settlement from the State Bureau of Investigation.

Adapting to modern society, spending time with his family, including his wife, whom he married while he was in prison, and a son from a relationship before his sentencing.

The post North Carolina Man Awarded $25M in Historic 44-Year Wrongful Imprisonment Case first appeared on Edge Media.

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Oscar Davies, an expert in US and UK politics and sports, is renowned for his sharp and engaging writing style, appealing to a broad spectrum of readers.

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