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Freed inmate who served almost 44 years for rape he didn't commit says $750,000 he got in compensation is far from enough

Man set free after 1976 conviction vacated
Man set free after 1976 conviction vacated 05:03

Durham, North Carolina — A man who served nearly 44 years in prison for a crime he says he didn't commit has received compensation from the state of North Carolina.

Ronnie Long told The Charlotte Observer it's not nearly enough.

Long received $750,000. It is by law the state's top compensation for victims of wrongful incarceration.

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Ronnie Long during recent interview. CBS News

Long's attorney, Duke University law professor Jamie Lau, said the amount is inadequate for people who were imprisoned for decades.

Long was convicted by an all-White jury in Concord of raping the widow of a Cannon Mills executive in 1976. Potentially exculpatory evidence was either intentionally withheld from his defense team or disappeared. And there was a tampered pool of potential jurors.

A federal court overturned Long's conviction. He was released from prison in September. And he was pardoned by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Rape Conviction Appeal
For decades, Ronnie Long maintained he was innocent of a 1976 rape, for which he was convicted by an all-White jury and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Concord Police Department/the Charlotte Observer via AP

"Fair? What's fair?" Long told newspaper. "Ask yourself that question when these people took away your 20s, your 30s, your 40s, your 50s and they started in on your 60s."

Long said his mother and father both asked if he was home in the last moments of their lives. He walked free six weeks after his mother's death.

"Ain't no way in hell that you put me in the penitentiary and then tell me what I'm worth," Long, described by the Observer as angry, remarked during a phone interview.

""These people were trying me for my life, man. Do you understand that? They were trying me for my life, and then they took evidence and destroyed it," he added.

The Observer points out that, "Long's time served of 43 years, 10 months and 27 days is the third longest in U.S. history for an exonerated defendant." He was 20 when he was convicted, is 65 now and would have been 100 if he'd served his entire sentence.

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