$1 million per year judgement for two men cleared by DNA after more than three decades’ incarceration
Two half-brothers, one on Death Row for years, were awarded $75 million for being wrongfully sentenced for a murder they did not commit, according to The Associated Press.
DNA evidence overturned Henry McCollum’s and Leon Brown’s 1983 conviction for the brutal murder of an 11-year-old girl, said the May 15 article.
“The first jury to hear all or the evidence — including the wrongly suppressed evidence — found Henry and Leon to be innocent, found them to been demonstrably and excruciatingly wronged, and has done what the law can do to make it right at this late date,” Raleigh attorney Elliot Abrams, who was part of the brothers’ legal team, said after the trial.
A total miscarriage of justice kept McCollum on Death Row for 31 years, becoming North Carolina’s longest-serving prisoner to be on the row.
The murder took place in 1983 in a rural part of the state.
It came out at the jury trial that both brothers had low IQs and that their comprehension of all of the facts and proceedings in the 1983 case were over their heads.
The question of the brothers’ IQs never came into the original investigation. Officers who were assigned to the murder inquiry briefly questioned the brothers, then put together a confession packet, and coerced the brothers to sign it, according to the brothers’ attorneys.
Guilty as charged and sentenced to death at 15 and 19; the younger brother’s sentence was later commuted to life in prison.
The brothers spent the better part of their youth locked up and suffered damage to their mental health. The oldest brother now requires full-time care as a result of mental health conditions caused by his time in prison.
After years of proclaiming the men’s innocence, attorneys picked up their case, challenging both the evidence and the confessions.
The lawyers requested to examine DNA evidence which later exonerated their clients, and led to the arrest of a convicted murderer, who lived next-door to the young girl who was murdered.
“I’ve got my freedom,” McCollum said. “There are still a lot of innocent people in prison today. And they don’t deserve to be there.”