Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half-brothers were declared innocent and released Tuesday by a Robeson County court.It's not like this should have surprised anyone. Activists have been working on this case ever since word first got out about the way the police railroaded two black teenagers picked up more or less at random:
The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man with a history of rape and murder.
The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, now 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential for false, coerced confessions and also of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.
No physical evidence tied the youths, both African-American, as was the victim, to the crime, but someone had apparently cast suspicion on Mr. McCollum. After five hours of questioning with no lawyer present and with his mother weeping in the hallway, not allowed to see him, Mr. McCollum told a story of how he and three other youths attacked and killed the girl.But the usual suspects refused to give these men a fair trial:
“I had never been under this much pressure, with a person hollering at me and threatening me,” Mr. McCollum said in a recent videotaped interview with The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. “I just made up a story and gave it to them so they would let me go home.”
As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers accusing a Democrat of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer.But will Scalia, Britt and their pals lose any sleep over their attempt to kill an innocent man? Of course not. They have more important things to worry about, like the moral decline of America or the perversion of the Constitution by liberals who care about the poor.
In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request for review of the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. . . .
Joe Freeman Britt, the original prosecutor, told The News & Observer last week that he still believed the men were guilty.