Black Man Convicted Of Rape In 1976 Is Fighting For His Release

Black Man Convicted Of Rape In 1976 Is Fighting For His Release

Ronnie Long has been in prison for 44 years and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has the power to free him.

Published June 24th

Written by BET Staff

May 10, 1976 would change 19-year-old Ronnie Long’s life forever. He went to court for a trespassing charge in Concord, North Carolina and was accused of raping a white woman. He has now been in jail for 44 years and is fighting for his freedom. 

Today (June 24), Ronnie Long’s lawyer, Jaime Lau, interviewed with The Clay Cane Show on SiriusXM Urban View about the horrific trial of Ronnie Long by an all-white journey. He was pointed out by the victim as being the rapist because, according to Lau,  she testified “he was the only one in the courtroom that looked remotely similar to the person who had attacked her.”

Lau also claimed the victim, who passed away in 2016, originally told law enforcement the attacker was “yellow,” which is slang for high yellow and she “never mentioned any facial hair on her attacker.” Long had a beard and a mustache. 

Additionally, out of the 43 fingerprints police collected from the rape scene, none of the prints matched Long’s, which the  Charlotte Observer also reported.

Lau maintains, “This trial was really drawn on racial lines, immediately.” 

For years, Long has been back and forth with the courts. In May, his lawyer defended his case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which included 15 members of the nation’s second highest court. Lau is waiting for a decision to vacate the conviction, send back to the lower court, or uphold his sentence, which is 80 years.

According to the Charlotte Observer, 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.”

He continued, “What is it about us that we want to prosecute and keep people in jail when we know evidence may exist that might lead to a different conclusion. Why is that so offensive to us now that we want to ... protect (illegal) activity from 44 years ago.”

Wynn also stated, “What’s the harm of looking (at the new evidence)? When did justice leave the process so we let our rules blind us to what we all can see?”

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While Long and his lawyer wait for a decision, which could take months, the Governor of North Carolina, who is a Democrat, has the power to commute Long’s sentence now.

Lau explained,  “Governor Roy Cooper has the authority to commute Ronnie’s sentence immediately… we've asked the governor to do that in light of the significant evidence of wrongdoing and misconduct in the case, the actual innocence of Mr. Long and, quite frankly, because he served 44 years for a rape conviction on the basis of little to no evidence.”

He also added, “We are happy to continue to make every effort to prove Mr. Long's innocence in court… That said, going through the courts takes time and the governor could end this injustice immediately, if he would just commute Mr. Long.”

Cooper recently made headlines for tweeting “Black Lives do Matter” after the uprisings across the country due to police brutality.

SiriusXM radio host Clay Cane directly tweeted Governor Cooper with, “If Black Lives Matter to you, release Ronnie Long. As you know, he was convicted by an all-white jury of raping a white woman in 1976. #FreeRonnieLong SHOW US you care about Black lives by freeing him. His lawyer is pleading for you to do the right thing.”

Lau revealed that Long’s mother is 89 years old. He is hoping to see his mom as a free man before she passes away.

See a clip of attorney Jamie Lau’s interview on SiriusXM.

WCNC-TV/OBSERVER ARCHIVES

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