Nearly a decade after being released from prison for a crime they did not commit, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown earned upwards of $75 million in damages.
In 1983, Brown and McCollum were arrested and charged for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina. From there, the two brothers were picked up and coerced into signing confessions they did not understand. As a result, the two men spent 31 years on death row. At 16 years old, Brown was the youngest death row inmate in the state's history. Not far behind, McCollum was the second youngest on death row in 1983 at just 20 years old. Together, the two saw dozens of their fellow inmates be executed until new DNA evidence emerged in the 2010s. By 2014, the two men were released and a man by the name of Roscoe Artis was convicted for the young girl's death.
Brown and McCollum had their conviction overturned in 2014, but the two had to spend the next seven years fighting for compensatory damages. Both Brown and McCollum were awarded $1 million for each year they spent in prison and another $13 million punitive damages.
“I thank God,” McCollum told The News & Observer.
“The first jury to hear all of the evidence — including the wrongly suppressed evidence — found Henry and Leon to be innocent, found them to have been demonstrably and excruciatingly wronged, and has done what the law can do to make it right at this late date," attorney Elliot Abrams added.
After learning of the jury's decision, Brown and McCollum celebrated. Moving forward, they will keep in mind their fellow inmates who have been convicted and abused under similar circumstances.
“I’ve got my freedom,” McCollum said.
“There’s still a lot of innocent people in prison today. And they don’t deserve to be there.”
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