Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown

Justice (finally) for two highlights justice denied to scores of others on death row

The good people at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation issued the following important statement in the wake of Gov. McCrory’s absurdly-delayed pardon announcement today for Henry McCollum and Leon Brown:

With pardon finally granted, McCrory must address broken death penalty system
McCollum and Brown case exposes flaws that could lead to executing an innocent person

Raleigh, NC –Gov. Pat McCrory granted a pardon of innocence today to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, after a nearly 10-month reinvestigation that confirmed the findings of the Innocence Inquiry Commission, the prosecutor, and the judge in their case. The governor’s action will clear their names and allow them to receive up to $750,000 in state compensation for their wrongful imprisonment.

“We are happy that Henry and Leon will finally get the compensation they deserve, and that their innocence has been officially recognized,” said Ken Rose, a senior attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, who represented McCollum for 20 years. “But we cannot stop there. We must reexamine a system that let an innocent man sit on death row for 30 years. How many more innocent people are still awaiting execution? The governor can and should call an official halt to executions in North Carolina until we know the answer to that question.” Read more

Justice for McCollum and Brown, News

Free: Governor pardons McCollum and Brown

PardonAfter being wrongfully convicted for the death of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie, spending more than 30 years in jail, and then waiting 266 days more for a pardon, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown are finally and fully free men.

At a press conference held an hour ago (to which Policy Watch was denied access), Gov. Pat McCrory announced that he was granting pardons of innocence to both men.

Here’s what the governor had to say in his press release:

“Today, I announce that I am granting pardons of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown.

 

“As with all pardons of innocence, both pardon applications for Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown were thoroughly reviewed by the Office of Executive Clemency, my legal team, and the Clemency Committee.

 

“Many individuals were contacted and interviewed, and I met personally with Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown.  

 

“It is difficult for anyone to know for certain what happened the night of Sabrina Buie’s murder. My deepest sympathies go out to the family of Sabrina Buie for what they have endured.

 

“I know there are differing opinions about this case and who is responsible. This has been a comprehensive and thoughtful process during the past nine months. Based on the available evidence I’ve reviewed, I am granting pardons of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown. It’s the right thing to do.”

The men were exonerated by Superior Court Judge Douglas B. Sasser and ordered released in September 2014, years after a cigarette butt found at the crime scene implicated someone else as the murderer.

They left prison with $45 from the state in their pockets, led to believe that by law they were entitled to, and would soon get, additional compensation for the loss of 31 years of freedom.

Both filed requests for pardons — needed before they could get that compensation — on September 11, 2014, and have been waiting for the governor to act ever since.

“We’re very happy that the governor has done the right thing and granted pardons of innocence,” said Ken Rose, an attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation who represented the men through their exoneration.

“He’s now joined the consensus of nearly everyone who’s looked at this case that Mr. Mccollum and Mr. Brown are innocent. This is one step for them to restart their lives, but it’s still going to be a long journey and a long fight for them to regroup and begin their lives again.

Rose also called on the governor to “to take the next step and halt all executions officially.”

“It’s just fortuitous that McCollum, having been on death row, was exonerated because of a cigarette butt that the real killer happened to leave at the scene of the crime. Had that not happened, he would still be on death row; he would still be under threat of execution.  The only way to stop that from happening to innocent people is to stop executions.”

Vernetta Alston, an attorney from the Center who worked with Rose to get the men released, echoed those sentiments.

“I’m thrilled for Henry and Leon, that this has finally come through,” she said. “They’ve been waiting nine, almost ten long months.  We’re happy that the governor has confirmed what we all know, that  Henry and Leon are innocent. This solidifies what I think is now the governor’s obligation, to issue a formal moratorium on executions in the state.”

 

 

Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown

On day #252, another voice demands justice for McCollum and Brown

McCollum BrownThe failure of Governor Pat McCrory to grant pardons to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown after more than eight months now borders on the farcical.

The editorial page of the Fayetteville Observer is the latest to weigh in with an exceedingly polite editorial entitled “Unjustly convicted, these men deserve justice.” Here is the conclusion:

“Eight months ago, a Robeson County judge reviewed the evidence and ordered the two men released. Since then, they have lived with their sister, near Eastover. The two are adjusting to the 21st century, learning about the Internet, cellphones and other integral parts of modern life that arrived while they were in prison.

But they are still in limbo, still not completely free to resume a normal life. Because of their rape conviction, they were ordered to registered as sex offenders before they were released. Their convictions are still on their records and a serious impediment to finding work.

By law, the state owes them $50,000 for each year of their improper incarceration, up to a maximum of $750,000. And even more important, the governor owes them a pardon – which rightfully should have come as soon as the men were cleared of the crimes. Three decades of their lives were unjustly taken away. There is no compensation large enough.

We hope the governor and his staff move quickly to clear McCollum’s and Brown’s records and get them the compensation they are due. They’ve given up more than anyone ever should.”

Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown

Charlotte Observer calls on Guv to act on McCollum and Brown pardon

BrownMcCollum-v2-web-60percent-grayAs has been chronicled for some time now on these pages, the unexplained delay in justice for Henry McCollum and Leon Brown continues. This is Day 243 since the pair submitted their pardon application to Gov. McCrory. The two remain essentially indigent after having had 31 years of their lives stolen by the state of North Carolina. Today, in and an encouraging development, the Charlotte Observer editorial page has lent its voice to the growing list of groups and individuals calling on the Governor to fish or cut bait on the matter. As the editorial notes:

“McCollum and Brown need a pardon to receive compensation because they were exonerated by a judge. A different path to exoneration – the innocence commission followed by a three-judge panel – does not require a pardon. A bill to treat exonerated inmates the same passed the House unanimously last month and is now in the Senate.

McCollum and Brown are both mentally disabled, penniless and adjusting to society after 31 years under the state’s control. That their lives were wrongly taken from them by an overzealous prosecutor and others is horrific. Now, McCrory’s delay has left them struggling to pay bills and with records still tainted by the lack of a pardon.

As part of McCrory’s investigation, the SBI and the Robeson County DA’s office are exploring whether the two had any culpability in the original crime. The investigation that freed them, though, was uncommonly thorough, and the judge found not only that there was not enough evidence to retry them, but that they were actually innocent.

McCrory’s extensive probe is unnecessary, and shouldn’t take more than eight months, in any case. He needs to wrap it up and let McCollum and Brown get on with the lives the state unconscionably took from them.’

Let’s hope the Guv is paying attention.

Justice for McCollum and Brown

Day 237 of Gov. McCrory denying justice to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Wednesday marks the 237th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

The two men, both mentally disabled and struggling to pay their bills, need the pardon from McCrory to be eligible for financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated. McCrory received the petition September 11 of last year.

NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey explains the case and explores the possible reasons for the absurd delay in justice for McCollum and Brown in an in-depth story on NC Policy Watch today.