N.C. Death Row Inmate Cleared Of Murder Charges Reunites With Family After 30 Years

A 30-year nightmare ended today for two North Carolina men after a judge overturned the murder convictions that sent them to prison in 1984.

As reported in this related Inquistr article, both mentally handicapped men were cleared of the murder charges earlier this week after DNA evidence found on a cigarette but at the crime scene implicated another man in the girl’s rape and murder. The other suspect, who lived close to the murder scene at the time, is currently serving a life sentence for similar rape and murder committed less than a month after Buie’s death.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the half-brothers, Henry McCollum, now 50, and Leon Brown, now 46, were only 19 and 15 when arrested for the murder and rape of an 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in Robeson Count, NC in 1983. Defense attorneys for the two men claim that confessions were coerced from the two teenagers at the time of the trial, even though there was no physical evidence connecting them to the rape and murder at the scene.

According to the New York Times, McCollum, one of North Carolina’s longest sitting death row inmates, was released from Raleigh Central Prison at 9:42 a.m. Wednesday morning. His parents, James and Priscilla McCollum, were crying and shouting for joy when he walked out. “We haven’t touched our son Henry in over 30 years,” his mother said. “We are so grateful that it’s over.”

McCollum embraced his parents and said, “I just thank God that I am out of this place. I knew one day that I was going to be blessed to get out of prison; I just didn’t know when that time was going to be.” He added, “Now I just want to eat, I want to sleep, and I want to wake up tomorrow and see that this is real.”

McCollum also spoke of the other men still on death row, making a heartfelt plea to reporters, “You’ve still got innocent people in North Carolina death row. Also, you’ve got some guys who should not have gotten the death penalty. That’s wrong. You got to do something about those guys.”

His half-brother, Brown, was released later Wednesday from a high-security prison facility in Maury, NC. He was also embraced family members, saying, “God is good all the time.”

Both men will now have to begin the process of living in a world they haven’t been a part of for 30 years, with no formal compensation or assistance from the state to help them. Center for Death Penalty Litigation director of public information said, “It’s not like being o probation or parole. It’s just – good luck.” However, she did tell reporters that a social worker would be coordinating with prison social workers and psychologist to help the men find services in their home towns.

Image courtesy of The New York Times