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'You Tell Me $750K Is Worth 44 Years of My Life?'

Ronnie Long, wrongfully convicted of rape in NC, says he'll fight compensation cap
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2021 10:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Ronnie Long spent 44 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. The Black man convicted by an all-white jury of raping a white woman in 1976 fought hard for his release in August, followed by a pardon in December. But he says the fight isn't over. Though that pardon cleared the way for compensation from the state, which was just awarded, the 65-year-old says his $750,000 payment is not nearly enough. "North Carolina intentionally put me in the penitentiary and you tell me $750,000 is worth 44 years of my life?" he tells WCNC. An award of $50,000 is given for each year of wrongful imprisonment under a state statute, but total compensation is capped at $750,000. That means Long was paid for 15 years behind bars, instead of the full 44. That's "wholly inadequate," Long's criminal attorney tells CNN.

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"He was in a cage when both his parents died; when his son had birthdays and graduations," says Jamie Lau. "Certainly he deserves more than he has received." Lau adds that "at least two men have been exonerated after more than 44 years of incarceration, which highlights the inadequacy of the compensation statute and that cap." "There should never be a cap on a person's life," says Long, who plans to fight for better compensation. He says several civil attorneys have already reached out. While he weighs his options, he's taking time to enjoy his newfound freedom. He's bought his first car, the Cadillac he's always wanted, and plans to buy a house with his wife, Ashleigh. "I am a living, walking testimony of a second chance," he tells CNN. "Even though I'm still struggling, I'm blessed," he adds, per WCNC. (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)

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