RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic has said since it took on Ronnie Long’s case that the evidence is overwhelming that he was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1976.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday that Long’s Constitutional rights were, indeed, violated.
“It confirms what we’ve said all along: that this is a profound injustice that occurred to Mr. Long that requires considerable attention by the court. And, if we’re going to have confidence in our justice system in North Carolina, it needs to be corrected,” said Long’s attorney Jamie Lau.
The federal court’s decision doesn’t free Long. The panel directed the district court to decide his guilt or innocence and share any additional evidence with Long’s defense team. The decision comes 44 years after Concord investigators failed to share evidence that could have freed him. That included fingerprints and hair samples. The description of the suspect didn’t match Long. A lineup was manipulated so that he would be picked out.
The appeal court’s condemnation was strong and deliberate. It said, in part, “that evidence has now trickled out, revealing the truth that Mr. Long has declared for decades: he should not have been found guilty … forty-four years is an unconscionably long period to wait for justice. It is time.”
“Judge Wynn speaks of that in his concurring opinion — that this is not just a product of misconduct prior to trial, and at trial, that it continued through the years with deceit from the State of North Carolina,” Lau said. “So, in those circumstances, certainly if justice has been served here, Mr. Long needs to be released without delay.”
How soon will that be? Not soon enough for Long, his attorneys, and family.
“I spoke with Ronnie earlier today, and he’s hopeful as a result of this decision. And again, he feels a sense of vindication because, for 44 years, he’s been saying that he was tried through an unfair trial and that lies have been presented over the course of time,” said Lau.
Long’s attorneys have also filed a petition for his release from Alamance Correctional Institution due to the threat of COVID-19 at the facility.
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