Two coloured individuals who spent decades behind bars after being wrongfully convicted in the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl have been awarded $75 million (around Rs 550 crore) in damages by a jury in a North Carolina, reports AP News.
It should be noted that the two half-brothers, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, were released from prison in 2014 after DNA evidence showed the role of a convicted murderer in the case. The crime had occurred in Red Springs in Robeson County and both of them were teenagers when they were accused of the crime. McCollum was then 19, and Brown was 15 and the time.
The duo was pursuing a civil case against law enforcement members since 2015, arguing that their civil rights were violated during the interrogations that led to their convictions.
Their attorneys had claimed that they were scared teenagers with low IQs when they were questioned by police and coerced into confessing. Both of them were convicted and sentenced to death.
The eight-person jury on Friday decided that McCollum and Brown should receive $31 million each in compensatory damages, $1 million for every year spent in prison and $13 million in punitive damages.
“The first jury to hear all of the evidence — including the wrongly suppressed 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,” Raleigh attorney Elliot Abrams said after the trial.
Abrams was part of the brothers’ legal team, which issued a statement saying the decades-long wait “for recognition of the grave injustice” inflicted on the two by law enforcement was over. It added that “a jury ... has finally given Henry and Leon the ability to close this horrific chapter of their lives. They look forward to a brighter future surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones.”
“I’ve got my freedom,” McCollum said. “There’s still a lot of innocent people in prison today. And they don’t deserve to be there.”