A 65-year-old man is fighting for compensation after spending 44 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Ronnie Long, who is Black, was found guilty by an all-white jury of rape and burglary, after he was accused of raping a White woman in 1976.
He was sentenced to life in a North Carolina prison, but Long constantly maintained his innocence and fought for his freedom through appeals and motions.
Hear more about Long’s story below:
His fight continued until last year, when the courts finally confirmed that Long had been wrongly convicted after ‘a trickle of post-trial disclosures… unearthed a troubling and striking pattern of deliberate police suppression of material evidence’, CNN reports.
The 65-year-old was released by a pardon from the governor in December 2020 and is entitled to compensation under a state law that requires he be paid $50,000 for each year he was in prison. However, the sum is capped at $750,000, meaning Long would only receive payment for 15 out of his 44 years in prison.
Long’s criminal attorney, Jamie Lau, told CNN that his client is grateful for the compensation he has been given but noted that $750,000 is ‘wholly inadequate to compensate him after taking away more than 44 years of his liberty’.
Lau continued, ‘He was in a cage when both his parents died; when his son had birthdays and graduations. He lost everything for those 44 years, and certainly he deserves more than he has received.’
Long now hopes to fight the law and get what he deserves from the state, which he believes put him in prison on purpose.
He commented, ‘Everything that transpired to put me behind bars was intentional. How is my case the same as someone who is exonerated with DNA? How can you say my life is only worth $750,000? There should never be a cap on a person’s life.’
Long has argued that the law needs to be addressed because it could happen to anyone, with Lau noting that ‘at least two men have been exonerated after more than 44 years of incarceration, which highlights the inadequacy of the compensation statute and that cap’.
The lawyer added, ‘It’s also time to revisit the compensation statute as a whole, as the Governor should not have full authority over who does and does not receive compensation. A review process that is not political should be established so all men and women who have been wrongly convicted has a fair chance at compensation.’
Though he is still pushing for the compensation he believes he deserves, Long is happy to be able to be around loving people and be reunited with his wife, with who he plans to buy a new home.
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