In August, the state of North Carolina finally released Ronnie Long after serving 44 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He was convicted by an all-white jury of raping a white woman in 1976. After decades of his case going back and forth in the courts, his sentence was finally vacated and all charges dropped.
However, Roy Cooper, the Democratic Governor of North Carolina, has refused to pardon the 64-year-old and without a pardon, Long is still considered guilty by the state and remains ineligible for compensation for his time behind bars.
In an emotional interview on SiriusXM’s The Clay Cane Show, Long pleaded with Cooper to grant his pardon and that of three other African American men who were released after their wrongful convictions.
“I am disappointed in the fact that you got a system here in the state of North Carolina -- you got four exonerees in one state. That within itself speaks volumes,” explained Long. “You got four Black men in one statement that have been exonerated. I was exonerated by the second highest court in the United States.”
He continued, “My constitutional rights were violated. My fifth and fourteenth amendment was violated. I ask Roy Cooper, who is going to be held accountable for my constitutional violation?”
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Equally heartbreaking, Long said that he was not able to reunite with his mother, Elizabeth Long, who died on July 11 at 89-years old, which was about a month before he was finally released. It was her prayer to see her son as a free man again before she passed away, which unfortunately never happened.
Long said through tears, “My mom died a month before I got out… That hurt me. That hurt me for real, man. I lost my two sisters. I lost my dad. I lost my mother and ain't nobody for the state said, ‘We apologize. We made a mistake.’ I can't even get an apology.”
Watch the interview below:
Black Lives Do Matter
In May of 1976, 19-year-old Ronnie Long went to court for a trespassing charge in Concord, North Carolina. He could have never predicted doing so would have led to being accused and identified In the courtroom as the rapist of a white woman.
Long was pointed out by the victim because, according to his attorney Jamie Lau, she testified “he was the only one in the courtroom that looked remotely similar to the person who had attacked her.”
The victim, who passed away in 2016, originally told law enforcement the attacker was “yellow,” indicating that he was a light-skinned, Black man and she “never mentioned any facial hair on her attacker.” Long had a beard, a mustache and is a dark-skinned man.
Additionally, out of the 43 fingerprints police collected from the rape scene, none of the prints matched Long’s, the Charlotte Observer reported. Nonetheless, he was quickly convicted by an all-white jury.
In May, Long’s lawyer defended his case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which included 15 members of the nation’s second highest court.
According to the Charlotte Observer, North Carolina Judge James Wynn slammed the case by saying, “Prosecutors clearly had evidence that any defense counsel in the world, not only in 1976 but (in) the history of this country, would have wanted or needed and which should have been supplied. And yet, we did not provide it.”
Pressure has since been put on Governor Cooper, who made headlines for tweeting “Black Lives do Matter” on May 31, to commute Long’s sentence, but he has yet to do so as Long continues to fight to clear his name and move on with the remainder of his life.