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Faith leaders join lawmakers and more than 34,000 citizens in calling for release of Ronnie Long

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Last Friday, an interfaith group of 38 religious leaders called on Gov. Cooper to commute the sentence of Ronnie Wallace Long.

Long’s story is a profoundly disturbing one. An all-white jury convicted Wallace, who is Black, of sexually assaulting a white woman in Concord, N.C., in 1976.

For more than 44 years Long has maintained his innocence, and it is now known that exculpatory evidence was hidden from Long and his attorneys at trial and that law enforcement officers testified falsely under oath. Long is represented by the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

The faith leaders supporting Long include the Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the North Carolina NAACP, and the Rev. William J. Barber II and the Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign. Their letter is the latest of a growing number of calls on Governor Cooper to free Long.

This is from the letter sent by the faith leaders:

“Numerous issues undercut the case on which the State secured Mr. Long’s conviction. Neither Mr. Long’s defense nor the jury knew that forty-three fingerprints were found at the scene, none of which matched Mr. Long’s. Nor did they know that the prosecution possessed an untested rape kit. The victim’s identification of Mr. Long was obtained through leading techniques, and his appearance was inconsistent with her initial description of the attacker. These are only a few questions among the many—including the lack of physical evidence implicating Mr. Long—that continue to cast doubt on his conviction forty-four years later.”

The letter from faith leaders came just days after a group of 16 North Carolina lawmakers wrote the governor urging him to commute Long’s sentence, and more than 34,000 people have signed a petition demanding Long’s release. This is from the lawmakers’ letter:

“The 1976 prosecution is emblematic of North Carolina’s all-too-familiar history with criminal cases drawn along racial lines: an all   -white jury, without the benefit of existing evidence that would have cast doubt on Mr. Long’s guilt, convicted a  Black man suspected of raping a white woman.”

Remarkably, Gov. Cooper has not yet exercised his authority to grant clemency since taking office. If this pattern holds, he would be the first North Carolina Governor in more than forty years to complete a term without granting clemency to a single person. Let’s hope he changes course in this important case.


  1. Mrs. Ashleigh Long

    August 4, 2020 at 11:29 am

    #FreeRonnieLong #TeamRonnieLong

  2. Debra Wright

    August 4, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    It is injustice when an individual is falsely incarcerated for a crime he/she did not commit. It is a GREATER miscarriage of justice when it has been made known of the individual’s innocence and still be held for the crime, he/she did not commit. We must speak up against a practice that has been infused into our culture that is satisfied with wrongful incarceration of the innocent that allow the guilty to go free. It is way past time to correct a system that has been comfortable with such practices. Free Ronnie Long and allow justice to take her proper place in Mr. Long’s Life!

    But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.
    Isaiah 49:25

  3. Grace Marini

    August 5, 2020 at 11:33 am

    It shouldn’t take a miracle to just do the right thing. This is within our Governor’s control to restore justice in this case, and by extension, faith in our state’s leadership.

    Not only was he innocent of this rape, the punishment did not fit the crime. He has already served 44 years for a a LIFE SENTENCE. A study made by the U.S. Department of Justice of prison releases in 1992, involving about 80 percent of the prison population, found that the average sentence for convicted rapists was 9.8 years, while the actual time served was 5.4 years. (Source: Wikipedia).

    Please do the right thing Governor Cooper! Commute this man’s sentence.

  4. Baruch Hampton

    August 5, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    “….with liberty and justice for all”. One of the biggest lies I was taught as a child. This case is inhumane, unfair, and totally ridiculous!!!!! Governor Cooper should show some humanity and commute this questionable and sketchy miscarriage of “justice”. In prison since 1976 with that shoddy “evidence”??? “liberty and justice for Y’ALL”!!! not ALL!

  5. Lena Johnson

    August 24, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    I agree with Baruch and Grace. They speak what is in my heart EXACTLY.

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