Two half brothers who have spent three decades in a US jail for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl have walked free after new DNA evidence cleared them of the crime.
The brothers, 50-year-old Henry McCollum and 46-year-old Leon Brown, were jailed back in 1984.
McCollum, who was North Carolina’s longest-serving death row inmate, surprisingly expressed no resentment over his treatment:
“It was a rough experience. Sometimes, I felt like giving up and stuff. But I said, ‘No, I can’t do that. Because life moves on.’ I knew one day that I was going to be blessed to get out of prison. I just didn’t know when that time was going to be.”
A judge overturned their conviction based on evidence which pointed to another suspect already serving a life sentence for a similar murder which he’d committed less than a month later.
Anti-capital punishment pressure groups see the case as one more reason for doing away with the death penalty in the US.
“There’s a lot of pressure when it’s a death sentence or when it’s a capital case, to solve the crime and make sure you have the right person. And I think sometimes that creates tunnel vision, and we make mistakes. And I think execution is a pretty high risk in a system that’s imperfect,” said Gerda Stein from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.
Their case has caused great concern on several legal counts. Both brothers are mentally disabled and had confessed at the time under intense questioning without the presence of a lawyer.
They will now have to get used to life on the outside which will undoubtedly present them with numerous challenges.