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(Update: According to the AP, the commission has awarded Henry McCollum and Leon Brown $750,000 each, the maximum available under state law.)

At a hearing today, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will consider compensation claims filed by Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, two men wrongfully convicted in 1991 for the 1983 rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in Red Springs, North Carolina.

Under state law, the men are entitled to $50,000 for each of the more than 30 years they spent in jail — McCollum on death row and Brown serving a life sentence — up to $750,000 each.

The two men were exonerated by Superior Court Judge Douglas B. Sasser a year ago after DNA evidence pointed to another man. It then took Gov. Pat McCrory 266 days to pardon the men, a necessary step before an award of compensation.

Patrick Megaro, who represents the two men, is expected to address the commission, following on the petition filed on their behalf in July.

According to a report from the Associated Press, McCollum plans to attend the hearing along with his sister, but Brown is hospitalized for mental health issues exacerbated by his time in prison.

Compensation could not come any sooner, as the men left prison with just $45 in their pockets and have struggled to adjust to life outside.  Even more important than the money though is having their names cleared, McCollum told the AP in June.

Read the petition for compensation filed on their behalf here.

Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown

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.

Commentary, Justice 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 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 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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