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Commentary, Justice Denied 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 Denied for McCollum and 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.

Monday marks the 228th 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.

McCollum and Brown, both mentally disabled, were freed September 4 of last year after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence that proved another man had committed the crimes.

The two men 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, 228 days ago.

The Red Springs Citizen reported Friday that the local prosecutor’s office and the SBI are conducting further investigations into the case before McCrory grants the pardon, despite the in-depth investigation by the Innocence Inquiry Commission that resulted in the exoneration of McCollum and Brown.

So after spending 31 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, the two men find themselves again waiting for justice.

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Commentary, Justice Denied for McCollum and 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.

Thursday marks the 224th 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.

McCollum and Brown need the pardon to receive the financial compensation available from the state for the years of their lives that were taken from them.

There’s still no explanation from McCrory about why he hasn’t granted the pardon. He received the application for it from McCollum and Brown last September 11—224 days ago.

Today instead of granting the pardon McCrory was near Charlotte for the dedication of a visitor center at Lake Norman State Park.

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Commentary, Justice Denied for McCollum and 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.

Another day, another decision by Gov. Pat McCrory to deny justice to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years behind bars for a rape and murder they did not commit.

Brown and McCollum were freed last September after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence that proved another man had committed the crimes.

McCrory promised then he was ready to receive their applications for pardons of innocence that they need to receive financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated.

McCrory received the pardon applications 223 days ago and Brown and McCollum are still waiting for an answer.

Instead of reviewing the pardon applications, McCrory spent this morning at a “golf day proclamation” in the old Senate chambers in the Capitol, an event that was closed to the media.

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Commentary

The following post appeared earlier today on the N.C. Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty blog.

Reasonable doubt: N.C. says 900 convictions based on bad evidence

By Kristin Collins

This week, buried in a Charlotte Observer editorial, was a surprising admission: The N.C. Commission on Actual Innocence is reexamining 900 convictions in which the State Bureau of Investigation may have used unreliable forensic evidence.

In all these cases, the SBI used hair analysis to prove the defendant’s guilt. In most cases, that means analysts used a microscope to compare hairs found at the crime scene with the defendant’s hair, and said they matched up. This technique was used in North Carolina until DNA testing of hair became available, around 2003. We don’t know how many of the 900 are death penalty cases.

We now know that this kind of forensic “science” is junk. Subjective forensic evidence, such as hair comparisons and bite mark comparisons, have been a contributing factor in more than a quarter of the 329 DNA-exoneration cases in the U.S. since 1989.

Last week, the FBI admitted that it has overstated the reliability of hair analysis in virtually every case where hair evidence was presented, including 36 cases where defendants were sentenced to death.

Only three of the cases the FBI identified were in North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a big problem.

Guess where North Carolina’s SBI learned its hair analysis techniques? From the FBI.

We already know bad hair analysis has contributed to one wrongful conviction in North Carolina: that of Joseph Sledge, who was recently exonerated after 36 years in prison. Read More