DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On Aug. 27, Ronnie Long took his first steps in freedom. He spent 44 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
In 1976, Long was convicted of rape by an all-white jury. Part of the appeal for his case includes that none of the fingerprints nor hair samples at the scene matched Long.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that Long’s Constitutional rights were violated.
While his fight for freedom is over, Long said he’s now fighting to survive. The 65-year-old, who now lives in Durham with his wife and family, said he’s having a hard time making ends meet.
“I’m struggling harder now than I was when I was behind the fence. At least behind the fence, I know where my three meals were coming from. Me and my family surviving on donations,” he explained.
His hope is the Gov. Roy Cooper pardons him.
“If I’m not pardoned, I can’t get nothing,” Long said.
In North Carolina, a person who gets a pardon of innocence is eligible for $50,000 for each year they were in prison, with a maximum of $750,000 total from the state.
“He [Cooper] won’t free people. He’ll pardon turkeys but he won’t pardon actual people,” said Muffin Hudson with the North Carolina Community Bail Fund of Durham.
Hudson is just one of many who represent organizations sitting outside the Governor’s Mansion demanding Cooper use his pardon powers and give clemency to people who are incarcerated during the pandemic.
“Gov. Cooper was the AG [Attorney General] and didn’t free Ronnie Long. When he was the governor, he didn’t free Ronnie Long. So, now you have the power to rectify some of the mistakes you’ve made,” she said.
It’s a 58-day vigil from sun up to sundown. Groups of people have been gathering each day for more than two weeks.
“All I’m asking you to do is put yourself in my position, man,” Long said.
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