Wrongfully Convicted

Leon Brown (left) and Harry McCollum (right) were set free after new DNA evidence cleared them in a rape and murder case. The two half-brothers served 30 years in a North Carolina prison. (Video stills via WRAL-TV)

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It took 30 years for Leon Brown and Harry McCollum to experience justice but Tuesday, a North Carolina judge overturned the two half-brothers’ convictions on rape and murder because of new DNA evidence. Brown and McCollum were convicted of raping and murdering 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983.

Both were initially given death sentences, but only McCollum is currently on death row.

The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission reviewed Brown and McCollum’s case and uncovered the DNA sample of a cigarette butt at the crime scene which links Buie’s death to another man.

Brown and McCollum were 19 and 15 at the time of the murder respectively. The Inquiry Commission is a state agency which “investigates and evaluates post-conviction claims of factual innocence,” according to its website.

Brown contacted the Commission in 2009 to look into his case. McCollum was the state’s longest-serving death row inmate, according to a CNN report.

The new DNA evidence links the crime to 74-year-old Roscoe Artis, who is serving life in prison on a similar rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl. The murder occurred a few miles away from Buie’s slaying in Robeson County, North Carolina.

The Huffington Post reported:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Part of a Scalia opinion:

“For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat,” Scalia wrote in Callins v.

Collins. “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”

He was referring to Henry Lee McCollum, who at the time had already been on death row for 12 years. McCollum’s conviction was overturned on Tuesday when DNA evidence implicated another man in the case.

 

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