The Pulse

McCrory in no hurry to help wrongly incarcerated brothers

By: - February 3, 2015 11:22 am

Governor Pat McCrory doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to help two Robeson County men, half-brothers railroaded and wrongly incarcerated for 30 years for crimes they did not commit, even though they are now destitute, unable even to pay their water bill.

The News & Observer on Sunday detailed the plight of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown,  both intellectually disabled, who were released from prison September 4 of last year after being found innocent of a rape and murder that DNA testing later proved another man committed.

The men, who are half-brothers and who are intellectually disabled, were each given $45 in cash when they left prison in September – the sum total of help they have received from the state. They live in Fayetteville with their sister, who struggles to pay the rent and keep the light and water bills paid. They have depended on the kindness of supporters for all their money.

A Superior Court judge declared them innocent in September. North Carolina law authorizes payment of $50,000 a year, up to a maximum of $750,000, to incarcerated individuals later proven innocent. But the brothers first need to obtain a pardon of innocence from the governor.

McCrory issued a press release when McCollum and Brown were freed from prison, saying he was prepared to receive a pardon request.
Yesterday, I was heartened to see the convictions of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown vacated by the court,” said Governor McCrory. “My office has a process in place to review applications for pardons of innocence.  If they apply, we will begin reviewing their applications as soon as they are received.
That was September 4. Attorneys for McCollum and Brown filed a pardon application a week later, on September 11. The N&O reported Monday that a spokesman for McCrory said the office is “still in the process of reviewing the requests.”

It has been five months. What is McCrory waiting for? McCollum and Brown have already suffered mightily at the hands of the state, robbed of their freedom for 30 years.

The very least McCrory can do is hear their pardon application now, with no further delay.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066