Half-Brothers Cleared of Murder After 30 Years

DNA evidence reveals wrongful conviction of NC teens
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2014 12:33 AM CDT
Half-Brothers Cleared of Murder After 30 Years
In this Aug. 12, 2014, photo, Henry McCollum sits on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, NC.   (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Travis Long)

Two mentally disabled half-brothers in North Carolina have spent the last 30 years locked up for a murder they didn't commit, DNA evidence has revealed. Leon Brown and Henry McCollum were 15 and 19 years old, respectively, in 1983 when they were arrested for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in the small town of Red Springs. Both were sentenced to death on the basis of confessions they later said were coerced, though the younger teen's sentence was later reduced to life. They were exonerated yesterday based on DNA evidence that clears them of any link to the crime scene—and implicates a known sex offender who lived just a block from where the girl's body was found, the New York Times reports.

A judge declared the men, now 46 and 50, innocent and ordered them released. "It's terrifying that our justice system allowed two intellectually disabled children to go to prison for a crime they had nothing to do with, and then to suffer there for 30 years. Henry watched dozens of people be hauled away for execution," McCollum's lawyer says. "He would become so distraught he had to be put in isolation. It's impossible to put into words what these men have been through and how much they have lost." Police in Red Springs are accused not only of framing the pair, but of hiding boxes of crucial evidence until just last month, the Guardian notes. Roscoe Artis, the 74-year-old man whose DNA was found in a cigarette butt at the crime scene, is already in prison, serving a life sentence for raping and murdering an 18-year-old girl less than a month after Buie's killing, reports the BBC. (More exoneration stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.