Ronnie Long was wrongfully jailed for 44 years on a North Carolina rape conviction. But the state only compensates him for 15 of those years.
He says he deserves more.
In 1976, Long, who is black, was charged with raping a white woman and then sentenced to life in prison. His lawyers said more than 40 fingerprints and other evidence collected at the scene had never been shared. Long was released in August 2020. He just received a check for $ 750,000.
North Carolina law says that anyone wrongly convicted of a felony can receive $ 50,000 for each year of imprisonment, but the catch is that the amount caps at $ 750,000. This means that Long, who is 65, will not be compensated for 29 years in prison.
“You took my 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s and you still talk about it worth it?” Long told USA TODAY.
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Long’s criminal attorney, Jamie Lau, said in a statement to USA TODAY that the amount awarded to Long was “insufficient.” Long’s parents died while in prison and had no savings before.
“He entered prison healthy and left broken. His continued financial security is the least he deserves after so many grievances in these 44 years,” Lau said.
Other states have similar caps. Mississippi law allows annual payments of $ 50,000 for each year a person is wrongfully incarcerated, but sets a maximum of 10 years for payment.
Curtis Flowers, a man who spent 23 years in the death row after being sentenced to the deaths of four people by gunshot in 1996 in Mississippi, has been tried six times, each trial resulting in a conviction overturned or annulment of the trial.
In 2020, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said the state would not try the case a seventh time, leaving Flowers a free man. And in March, a state judge ruled that Flowers would receive maximum state compensation of $ 500,000.
Lau said Long’s case and those like it underscore the insufficiency of the cap and that Long should not have needed a pardon from Governor Roy Cooper to receive the money.
“It is time to review this amount, as we are learning the extent of the harm caused by wrongful convictions in North Carolina. It is also time to review the compensation law as a whole, as the governor should not have full authority over who does it and who doesn’t. receive compensation, ”Lau said.
Long told WCNC-Charlotte that several civilian attorneys had contacted him about the check and that he was considering his options. He added that he is lucky to be free and that he is looking for a new home with his wife, Ashleigh.