Gov. Roy Cooper issued pardons of innocence to five men, Ronnie Long, Teddy Isbell Sr., Kenneth Kagonyera, Damian Mills and Larry Williams Jr., according to a release from his office yesterday. It marks the first time he has used his constitutional power to pardon during his governorship.
Long, whose case has received the most public attention, spent the longest time — 44 years — incarcerated among the five clemency recipients. He was originally convicted of rape and burglary by Cabarrus County Superior Court in 1976 has already been released from custody but expected the pardon of innocence. The pardon clears his name and makes him eligible to seek compensation under state law.
“While there is no amount of money that can make up for losing 44 years of your life, this compensation will allow Ronnie to move forward with the security of knowing that he can meet his basic needs.” Jamie Lau, Long’s lawyer said in an email.
— MichelleBoudin (@MichelleBoudin) December 17, 2020
Lau previously said on Twitter that he asked for the governor’s pardon while the appeal was pending at the beginning of the pandemic in consideration of Long’s health.
The ACLU of North Carolina released a statement applauding Cooper’s actions and calling for more. “With more than 30,000 people currently incarcerated in state prisons, we urge the Governor to use his executive powers further to allow redemption for those who deserve another chance and to redeem a system that continues to have a disparate impact on people of color.”
The ACLU has joined the NC NAACP and other civil rights groups to sue the state over its treatment of inmates in prisons during the pandemic, resulting in a biweekly-testing mandate for prison staff and the appointment of special master Thomas Maher by Wake County Superior Court judge Vincent Rozier Jr.
“We hope this is just a beginning,” Lau said, “As other deserving individuals still have pardon requests pending”.
The pardon orders can be accessed here.