An eight-person jury deliberated for nearly five hours before awarding $75 million to two North Carolina half brothers wrongfully convicted and jailed for 31 years for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.
“The first jury to hear all of the evidence, including the wrongly suppressed evidence, found” Henry McCollum and Leon Brown “to have been demonstrably and excruciatingly wronged, and has done what the law can do to make it right at this late date,” said Elliot Abrams, one of the brothers’ attorneys.
On May 14, the jury decided McCollum and Brown should receive $31 million each, or a total of $1 million for every year they spent incarcerated, as well as a total of $13 million in punitive damages, according to The News & Observer.
“I thank God,” McCollum said after the jury’s decision.
He also noted, “I've got my freedom. There's still a lot of innocent people in prison today. And they don't deserve to be there.”
In 1983, the brothers, who are intellectually disabled with IQs ranging in the 50s, were teenagers when they were accused of raping and murdering the girl in Red Springs, Robeson County, according to The News & Observer. In court, their attorneys argued the pair were coerced into signing confessions they had no way of understanding.
McCollum was ordered to death row while Brown eventually was sentenced to life behind bars.
In 2014, a Robeson County judge overturned McCollum and Brown’s convictions in light of DNA evidence that placed another man, convicted killer Roscoe Artis, at the crime scene.
The following year the siblings received full pardons from North Carolina and filed a civil suit against multiple law enforcement agencies. The brothers contended authorities violated their civil rights by fabricating, suppressing and ignoring evidence, the Associated Press reported.
Now that the brothers’ wait “for recognition of the grave injustice that law enforcement inflicted upon them” is over, their lawyers said in a statement, “they look forward to a brighter future surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones.”