Ronnie Long, who spent 44 years in prison following a wrongful conviction, has been awarded a $25 million settlement.
This significant amount represents the second-largest payout ever by the state of North Carolina for a wrongful conviction case, per CNN.
Long’s story is an extraordinary case of justice long-delayed. But finally served, his conviction is shedding light on the issues faced by wrongly convicted individuals in the justice system.
What Happened To Ronnie Long?
In 1976, an all-white jury in North Carolina convicted Ronnie Long, a Black man, of burglary and raping a 54-year-old white woman. He denied committing the crimes.
His case drew significant attention due to the unusual circumstances surrounding his conviction.
Ronnie Long is finally receiving a long-overdue apology for the 44 years he spent in PRISON for a rape he didn’t commit! The City of Concord (NC) and the State Bureau of Investigation will pay out $25M — the largest settlement of its kind in the state’s history! pic.twitter.com/J1Y6vA1yBD
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) January 10, 2024
The court sentenced Long to 80 years in prison despite evidence law enforcement suppressed at the time. That evidence included semen samples and fingerprints from the crime scene, which didn’t match Long.
Over the decades, numerous parties have made appeals on Long’s behalf, shedding light on issues and misconduct in his trial. The case gained national attention and highlighted the issues that can lead to wrongful convictions.
A federal court finally exonerated Long in 2020, after he had spent over four decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. It found that Ronnie’s trial had violated his constitutional rights.
Ronnie left prison on August 27 of that same year. He was initially told he’d receive only $750,000 for the wrongful conviction, paid out at $50,000 per year. But Ronnie refused to settle for that law and sued.
Ronnie’s $25 Million Settlement
This week, Long, the city of Concord, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation settled for $25 million. He will reportedly get $22 million from Concord and $3 million from the bureau.
On Tuesday (January 9), the city confirmed the news in a statement that read:
“In the settlement, the City of Concord acknowledges and accepts responsibility for the significant errors in judgment and willful misconduct by previous city employees that led to Long’s wrongful conviction and imprisonment.”
Following the settlement announcement, supervising attorney Jamie Lau shared words. He mentioned several pivotal moments Long missed in his life due to his incarceration, from birthdays to graduations and not being able to attend the funerals of his parents and his two sisters.
“Have we found justice in this case? Absolutely not. No amount of money will ever compensate Ronnie for all that he lost, but this is a big step forward for him,” the lawyer continued.
The settlement comes at a crucial time when issues of justice and systemic bias are still under scrutiny in the U.S.
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