USA: TWO MEN HAVING SERVED 31 YEARS, ONE ON DEATH ROW, ARE EXONERATED IN NORTH CAROLINA
September 3, 2014: Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, were released from prison in North Carolina. The day before, a Robeson County court exonerated them, because new DNA evidence proved their innocence.
Both are severely intellectually disabled and were teenagers - McCollum 19 years old, Brown just 15 - at the time of their arrests in 1983.
McCollum and Brown were sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of Sabrina Buie, an 11-year-old girl who was brutally raped and suffocated. Brown's sentence was later reduced to life in prison and his charge reduced to rape, but McCollum has remained on death row through decades of appeals.
McCollum and Brown were released after a hearing in Robeson County Superior Court, in which the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, an independent state agency, detailed the results of its investigation, including DNA testing of items found at the crime scene. The Commission found that none of the items could be traced to McCollum or Brown. Instead, critical DNA evidence matched another individual named Roscoe Artis, a convicted rapist and murderer who lived less than 100 yards from where the victim's body was found.
The only evidence that tied McCollum and Brown to the crime were false confessions that law enforcement obtained from the disabled teens, after 5 hours of intense interrogation. (Source: dupontcirclecommunications.com, 03/09/2014)