"North Carolina Men Are Released After Convictions Are Overturned," is the New York Times report by Jonathan M. Katz.
Henry Lee McCollum had barely slept in days, terrified that his dream of 31 years — being released from North Carolina’s death row — might not come true.
But finally on Wednesday morning, after one more night of delays, he was driven out of the concertina-wire gates of the central prison here and to the waiting arms of his parents.
“I just thank God I’m out of this place,” Mr. McCollum, 50, said. “Now I want to eat, I want to sleep, and I want to wake up tomorrow and see that this is real.”
Despite a judge’s order on Tuesday overturning their conviction in the 1983 rape and murder of a child, Mr. McCollum and his half brother, Leon Brown, remained in custody overnight as officials processed the paperwork for their release. Mr. McCollum finally left the prison around 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday. Mr. Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, was released from prison around 1 p.m. He walked out of the prison gates in Maury, N.C., 80 miles east of here, and was embraced by family members. “God is good all the time,” he said.
"Exonerated North Carolina inmate adjusts to outside life after 30 years in prison," is AP coverage, via the Guardian.
After walking out of prison for the first time in three decades, former death row inmate Henry McCollum tried to climb into his father’s car but put his head through the loop of the seatbelt that is supposed to cross his chest. A TV cameraman showed him how it works.
The safety gear isn’t all that’s changed since the 50-year-old McCollum and his younger half brother were sent away for a 1983 rape and killing that new DNA evidence shows they likely did not commit.
McCollum has never accessed the internet or owned a cellphone. And he looked ill at ease on Wednesday in a tie and white dress shirt, the collar at least an inch too large, shedding the red jumpsuit he wore in his cell. His relief was obvious, though.
The Raleigh News & Observer reports, "NC brothers released from prison spend first day in freedom," by Joseph Neff.
Prison is over, but freedom will certainly carry new and bewildering challenges for McCollum and Brown, who’ve been locked up their entire adult lives. Both are mentally challenged, with IQ tests scoring in the 50s or 60s. They struggle with basic reading and writing, and they have lived three decades in a world being ordered around by others.
Like exonerated inmates before them, the two entered the free world with no outreach or help from the state that imprisoned them. They will rely on family, McCollum living with his father and stepmother outside Wilmington and Brown with his sister and cousins in Fayetteville. A social worker from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation has been trying to help establish residency, locate birth certificates and line up social services.
They will likely consider reparations: a pardon of innocence from the governor could bring a maximum of $750,000 each. Other wrongfully convicted inmates have filed civil rights lawsuits that have won settlements in the millions of dollars.
"How the North Carolina GOP Made a Wrongfully Convicted Man a Death Row Scapegoat," is by Michael Daly at the Daily Beast. For those interested in politicians who pushed the death penalty as a political wedge issue, it's a must-read.
From North Carolina comes a multi-twisted, true-life horror story, a Southern grotesque of despicable politics and outrageous injustice.
The supporting characters include a prosecutor who prided himself on being in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of people he put on death row.
There is also a convicted killer who was about to be executed for murdering a teenage girl when he refused his last meal as a protest against abortion.
And there is a woman legislator who got elected after her party smeared her opponent for being soft on crime even though his teen daughter had been raped and murdered. Her first priority upon achieving office was to introduce legislation to criminalize exposing a nipple or even an areola in public.
But the principal figures in this tale are two mentally challenged half-brothers who are being freed only this week after serving more than three decades for a heinous crime they did not commit, the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.
ThinkProgress posts, "Senate Hopeful On 30-Year Wrongful Conviction: ‘The Process Worked’," by Alice Ollstein.
The same day Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis faced off against Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in the first debate for her hotly contested US Senate seat, two men were freed from a North Carolina prison after spending decades incarcerated for a crime they didn’t commit.
Now middle aged, the two brothers have been in prison — one of them on death row — since they were teenagers, wrongfully accused of raping and murdering a child. When ThinkProgress asked Tillis if anything needs to change in light of this case, he said that because they were eventually exonerated, “It’s an example of how we have protections in our judicial system in North Carolina.”
“I feel very, very sorry for them and I’m glad to know they’re out,” he said. “At least the process worked, it just took too long.”
But civil and legal rights advocates, including Vernetta Alston at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, have long argued the “process” has not worked at all for Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown.
Earlier coverage of the North Carolina exonerations begins at the link.