Two Wrongfully Convicted Brothers Awarded $75 Million
Two Black men with intellectual disabilities who were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in 1983 have been awarded $75 million by a jury in North Carolina.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, an eight-person jury awarded half-brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown $31 million each – $1 million for every year they spent in prison. Additionally, the jury awarded them $13 million in punitive damages after the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, one of the defendants in the civil suit, settled part of the lawsuit for $9 million.
The verdict is the highest combined in U.S. history regarding a wrongful conviction case and the largest ever personal injury award in North Carolina, the Washington Post reports.
“The first jury to hear all of the evidence found Henry and Leon to be innocent, found them to have been demonstrably and excruciatingly wronged, and has done what the law can do to make it right at this late date,” Elliot S. Abrams, an attorney representing the brothers, told News & Observer. “The jury could not have sent a stronger message that the citizens of this country will not tolerate law enforcement misconduct and will no longer blindly believe the testimony of law enforcement over that of marginalized people.”
When they were both teenagers, Brown and McCollum signed confessions they didn’t understand. Intellectually disabled, they alleged law enforcement officers coerced them into confession and fabricated evidence.
“For more than 37 years, Henry and Leon have waited for recognition of the grave injustice that law enforcement inflicted upon them,” Abrams said to the News & Observer. “Today, a jury did just that, and have finally given Henry and Leon the ability to close this horrific chapter in their lives.”
In 2014, the brothers were released from prison after DNA evidence cleared them of the crime. They received full pardons a year later.