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Wrongfully convicted black man who spent 44 years in prison on a rape charge says his release is 'breathtaking' and will visit his parents' gravesites to tell them 'your son is clear'

A North Carolina man who spent 44 years in prison for a rape he says he didn't commit says that his new freedom is 'breathtaking.'  
Ronnie Long, 64, was freed last week after his 1976 first-degree rape and burglary convictions were vacated by the United States District Court after having already served 44 years of the two life sentences he received for the crimes.
'To be able to walk out of them gates without being supervised, it was breathtaking,' Long told 48 Hours in his first sit-down interview since his release.  
He had walked out of the North Carolina prison where he'd been serving his 80-year sentence on August 27. 
Ronnie Long, 64, said that it was 'breathtaking' to be able to leave prison gates without being accompanied for the first time in 44 years, after his rape conviction was vacated
Ronnie Long, 64, said that it was 'breathtaking' to be able to leave prison gates without being accompanied for the first time in 44 years, after his rape conviction was vacated
Long (pictured in his 1976 mugshot) was 20 when he was accused of raping white woman Sarah Judson Bost, 54, at knifepoint in her home in April 1976
Long (pictured in his 1976 mugshot) was 20 when he was accused of raping white woman Sarah Judson Bost, 54, at knifepoint in her home in April 1976
Long (left) is pictured with lawyer Jamie Lau (right) on August 27 as he leaves the prison after his charges were vacated by the US District Court
Long (left) is pictured with lawyer Jamie Lau (right) on August 27 as he leaves the prison after his charges were vacated by the US District Court 

Long told the news magazine that when he first heard that his convictions were being vacated he told his lawyer, Duke University Law School's Wrongful Convictions Clinic's Jamie Lau: 'You serious?' 
'The state can't go back on their word? They gonna stick to what they say?' Long said, recalling what he told Lau.  
Long said that now that he's been released, he plans to spend his time with his family - many of who were there to great him when he took his 'breathtaking' first steps outside the prison compound, as well as the woman he married in 2014, Ashleigh Ward, a former UNC Charlotte criminal justice student.
One specific thing Long told 48 Hours he'll be doing is going to his parents' graves to tell them about his convictions being vacated. 
'I know my mother and father died with a broken heart,' Long said. 'I'm gonna tell them now, when I visit the gravesite, 'Your son is clear."'   
Long, who is black, had been in prison since being convicted of raping a white woman, Sarah Judson Bost, then 54, at knifepoint in her home on the evening of the 25 April 1976.
At the time, Long was 20 years old and living in Concord, North Carolina. 
Bost was reported to have been told by detectives that they believed her suspected rapist was in court on an unrelated case and told to see if she recognized him. Later that day, she picked out Long, who had been making an appearance in a court on a minor trespassing case.     
Bost said she recognized his voice, NBC News reported. 
Long was put in a photo lineup as the only man wearing a leather jacket, which was allegedly what was worn on the night of the attack, according to court records. 
Long had an alibi for the time of the assault. His mother, who he lived with at the time, and the mother of his child said he was on a group phone call with them.   
Man convicted of rape in 1976 is released after conviction vacated
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Long (on August 27) said being able to walk outside prison as a free man was 'breathtaking'
Long (on August 27) said being able to walk outside prison as a free man was 'breathtaking'
Lng (center) said he plans to visit his parents' gravesite and tell them 'your son is clear'
Lng (center) said he plans to visit his parents' gravesite and tell them 'your son is clear'
Long (left, pictured with Lau) will now be petitioning North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for a pardon of innocence, which would give him the opportunity of collecting money earmarked for those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes
Long (left, pictured with Lau) will now be petitioning North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for a pardon of innocence, which would give him the opportunity of collecting money earmarked for those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes
He was getting ready to attend a party in Charlotte at the time of the assault, they said.
Long received the 80-year prison sentence after an all-white jury found him guilty of raping Bost and also of first-degree burglary. 
Despite decades of appeals to overturn the conviction, and though DNA evidence obtained throughout the years pointed to his innocence, he remained in jail. 
The DNA evidence in question was that hair samples and clothing fibers didn't match those of Long's. According to news reports, the evidence was not shared with the defense at the time of the trial. 
In 2015, it was revealed that 43 fingerprints taken from the scene 'excluded' the prisoner as the source of the prints. A request for a new trial was still rejected by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals the same year.    
'I feel as though the criminal justice system here in this state failed me,' Long told 48 Hours. 
Lau had previously told 48 Hours that Long's defense team was unaware that 43 fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime, but that none of them matched Long's prints. 
He also said that Long's original defense team was unaware that a rape kit and other evidence had been taken from the victim or that a hair was found at the scene that didn't match Long. 
North Carolina state attorneys argued that despite this apparent evidence suppression, it wouldn't have changed the jurors' verdict, so Long remained in prison.     
'I'm 64, going on 65,' Long told 48 Hours. 'They took my life away from me when I was 20 years old. I ain't got nothing but memories. But yet, and still, you say the evidence collected in the case was immaterial?'
In this 2007 file photo, Ronnie Long stands in a hallway at the Albemarle Correctional Institution in Albemarle, east of Charlotte, N.C.
In this 2007 file photo, Ronnie Long stands in a hallway at the Albemarle Correctional Institution in Albemarle, east of Charlotte, N.C. 
Ronnie Long is pictured being released from prison 44 years after being convicted of a rape he said he didn't commit
Ronnie Long is pictured being released from prison 44 years after being convicted of a rape he said he didn't commit
Pictured: Long meets with his family and the press outside the Albemarle Correctional Institution in North Carolina yesterday
Pictured: Long meets with his family and the press outside the Albemarle Correctional Institution in North Carolina yesterday
That appeared to be the case until last week, when the 4th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled that Long's rights had been violated by what it called 'a troubling and striking pattern of deliberate police suppression of material evidence.'
It wasn't until then that the North Carolina Attorney General's office decided to stop fighting Long's case, leading to his release from Albemarle Correctional Institution.  
Since his convictions were vacated, Long has also received a dismissal from North Carolina's Cabarrus County District Attorney's office, meaning he's entirely clear of all charges against him.   
Long and his lawyers will now be petitioning North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to grant him a pardon of innocence, which would allow him to receive money from a state fund earmarked for people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. 
Cooper does not appear to have made any public comments about Long's case or release yet. 

2 comments:

  1. A "police suppression of evidence"? No, a prosecution suppression of evidence. Police charge, District Attorneys prosecute.

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  2. This is exactly why I cannot ever support a death penalty. These prosecutors and judges that kept ruling in their favor should all be given the same sentence they gave this guy and they should have all their assets seized and given to him too. This was deliberate suppression of evidence so they could easily close a case and rack up another win. This is partly why we have rioting all over the country and if BLM was a real serious organization (I view them as a group of thugs) they would be demanding charges against these prosecutors. They would be demanding justice for this black man. They would be protesting in front of the prosecutors homes. And where are they? In Portland burning buildings.

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