Two brothers who were wrongfully arrested and convicted of rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in 1983 have been granted US$75 million as compensation.
The two black Americans, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown had already spent 31 years in prison when it was discovered that they were actually innocent.
The Associated Press reported that the substantial payout comes after the brothers pursued civil action against law enforcement for violating their civil rights during interrogations that led to the convictions for the crime in Red Springs, N.C.
McCollum and Brown, then 19 and 15, respectively, struggled with basic reading and writing because of their intellectual disabilities.
Their lawyers argued that the two were coerced into signing confessions that implicated them in the rape and murder of Sabrina Buie, a girl who was found in a soybean field behind a grocery store in Red Springs, a small town near the South Carolina border.
The girl was reportedly found naked except for a bra, and she had been raped and suffocated with her own panties.
The brothers were brought in by police on a tip from a “confidential informant,” who happened to be a 17-year-old classmate who was acting on rumours she heard around the school.
After enduring hours of questioning without a lawyer present, they signed confessions that were written for them that implicated the other of rape and murder.
They were sentenced to death in 1985. But in 2009, McCollum reached out to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, an independent organization created by the state’s General Assembly.
The commission found DNA evidence on a Newport cigarette butt pulled from the crime scene. As they discovered, the DNA matched up with another man who had been convicted of a similar rape and murder that occurred less than a month after Buie was found dead.
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