Commentary

Governor brags of pardon while request from exonerated brothers languishes

McCollum BrownIf you’re like most people, you probably missed Governor McCrory’s announcement yesterday touting a new state plan to help a peanut operation create 78 jobs over three years in Chowan County. Though all well and good as far as these announcements go, what really stands out about this one was its inclusion of the Governor’s statement that he was especially happy to have pardoned one of the company’s leaders in 2013 for crimes he committed several decades ago.

To which all a caring and thinking person can say in response is: a) Bravo! Thousands of good North Carolinians undoubtedly deserve such second chances, and b) Speaking of which, Governor, what in the heck is going on with the pardon applications of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown?!

McCollum and Brown, you’ll recall, are the half brothers who were found innocent last year of crimes for which they were imprisoned more than 30 years. In other words, they didn’t commit a terrible crime and then later get their lives together; they were wrongfully and horrifically railroaded into prison and served decades for crimes they didn’t commit. McCollum was sentenced to death!

Meanwhile, tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the pardon requests the men submitted — a period during which the men have received no compensation for the terrible injustice inflicted upon them by the state of North Carolina. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported last month:

“The men, who are half-brothers and who are intellectually disabled, were each given $45 in cash when they left prison in September – the sum total of help they have received from the state. They live in Fayetteville with their sister, who struggles to pay the rent and keep the light and water bills paid. They have depended on the kindness of supporters for all their money.

A Superior Court judge declared them innocent in September. North Carolina law authorizes payment of $50,000 a year, up to a maximum of $750,000, to incarcerated individuals later proven innocent. But the brothers first need to obtain a pardon of innocence from the governor.”

Earth to Governor McCrory: The time for action is long past due. Do the right thing and help these men and their families — now. And if you want to learn more about the subject, all you have to do is walk a couple blocks down the street from the mansion and attend a panel discussion that Campbell Law School will be holding Thursday evening. Here are the details:

“The recent headline-grabbing exonerations of Leon Brown and Henry McCollum will be the subject of a panel discussion at Campbell Law on Thursday, March 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The event, hosted by the Campbell Law Innocence Project (CLIP) will feature four participants directly involved in the case.

Area residents are invited to join the Campbell Law community in attending the presentation. Paid parking is available at the City of Raleigh Municipal Parking Deck across from the law school on West Morgan Street.

In 1983 half-brothers Brown and McCollum were convicted in the murder of 11-year old Sabrina Buie. North Carolina Superior Court Judge Robert Sasser ordered that they be released from prison in September 2014 based upon the DNA analysis of evidence found at the crime scene.

McCollum initially confessed to the murder and both were given death sentences, which were later overturned. McCollum was eventually sentenced to death row, while Brown was sentenced to life in prison and convicted of rape. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission uncovered the new DNA evidence that ultimately lead to their freedom this past September.

Panel participants for the discussion include Johnson Britt (Robeson County District Attorney), Cortney Cowan (N.C. State Bureau of Investigation Laboratory), Kendra Montogmery-Blinn (N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission Executive Director), and Ken Rose (Center for Death Penalty Litigation Senior Staff Attorney).”

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