North Carolina Finally Compensates Two Brothers Wrongfully Imprisoned for Three Decades

By Sameer Rao Sep 03, 2015

Two brothers who were wrongfully imprisoned for three decades for a crime they didn’t commit just received $750,000 in compensation from the state of North Carolina—the highest-possible payout in such an instance.

Henry McCollum, 51, was present for the ceremony in which he and his half-brother Leon Brown, 47, were each awarded the maximum payout approved by state officials. Brown, however, remains in a hospital, where he’s undergoing treatment for mental health issues stemming from their imprisonment. The brothers were officially pardoned in June, which made them eligible for financial restitution.

According to their attorneys, the brothers “were scared teenagers with low IQs” who investigators manipulated and berated, feeding them details before they signed false confessions for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983. McCollum was the longest-serving inmate on the state’s death row, while Brown was convicted to life in prison. Both were attacked while serving their sentences, and Brown was repeatedly sexually assaulted by other prisoners.

Their convictions were overturned in September 2014, thanks to new DNA evidence that didn’t place the brothers at the scene of the crime. The testing was performed by the state’s Innocence Inquiry Commission, whose purpose is to investigate disputed cases. 

The money will go into funds that will help the men and their families financially—something that has been difficult ever since the brothers’ release and subsequent difficulty readjusting to life on the outside. 

(H/t AP