RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A group spent part of their Thanksgiving outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh calling on Governor Roy Cooper (D) to use his pardon power not just on two turkeys, but for people who were wrongfully convicted of crimes.
Ronnie Long, who was released from prison in August after serving 44 years for a crime he did not commit, said he’s continued to struggle in the three months he’s been free.
“I’m 65, so now you want me to come out here and live a productive life? Give me the avenue to do so,” he said. “Give us compensation for the injustice that was done to us here in the state of North Carolina.”
Long is seeking for the governor to pardon him.
Attorney Jamie Lau, who worked on Long’s case, said that’s a necessary step for Long to be able to receive the maximum of $750,000 in compensation from the state for the years he was wrongfully imprisoned.
“That 44 years means something, and $750,000 is the least the state could do to make him whole after that treatment,” said Lau. “The state of North Carolina should be taking care of him by this point, having taken all those years away from him.”
Cooper released a video Wednesday as he marked the tradition of pardoning two turkeys.
At the Thanksgiving Day demonstration outside the Executive Mansion, one person wore a turkey costume as people held signs that read, “Pardon people, not turkeys.”
The governor acknowledged last month receiving a petition regarding Ronnie Long’s case.
“That petition from Mr. Long, which I think was received a week or so ago, will receive careful consideration,” Cooper said in October.
Since then, Lau said there hasn’t been any communication from the governor’s office beyond confirming they had received the petition and that it was under review.
Cooper’s office did not reply to a request for comment on Wednesday ahead of the demonstration on Thursday, which is a government holiday.
Long said he’s relying on donations and government assistance programs as he tries to adapt to life outside prison amid a global pandemic.