After 30 years in prison, brothers awarded $750,000 each for wrongful conviction

The half-brothers who were pardoned after three decades in prison will have a compensation hearing Wednesday. The two men could receive a combined total of $1.5 million compensation for wrongful conviction.

Travis Long/The News & Observer/AP/File
Henry McCollum sits on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C., Aug. 12, 2014. He and his half brother Leon Brown spent more than three decades in prison for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983. Both of their convictions were vacated last year, after new DNA analysis pointed to a different man. They were officially pardoned in June and could receive $750,000 compensation from the state.

This story was updated at 11:30 a.m.

 Deputy Commissioner J. Brad Donovan of the North Carolina Industrial Commission awarded Henry McCollum and his half brother Leon Brown $750,000 each for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment for 30 years late Wednesday morning.

It’s been three decades since the two men were wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina, and one year since the half-brothers were able to walk free for the first time as adults.

Now, each will receive up to $750,000 in restitution from the state.

Adjusting to life outside of prison hasn’t been easy for the brothers. Money has been tight. “The two men were each given $45 upon their release and lived on charity,” The Christian Science Monitor reported in March. “They recently received a bank loan that allowed them to move into an apartment.”

Mr. Brown, who’d been serving a life sentence, is currently in a hospital for “mental health issues exacerbated by his time in prison.” Before his exoneration, no other inmate had served as much time on North Carolina’s death row as Mr. McCollum.

But McCollum, who is now 51, told the Associate Press that his biggest priority for getting pardoned in June was being able to clear his name. “I did 31 years in prison for a crime I did not commit. I could have given up a long time ago and told the state to kill me,” he told The New York Times.

The brothers were only teenagers when they were arrested for killing 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983. Defense attorneys have said the brothers, who are both considered mentally challenged, were coerced into their confessions.

A judge overturned their convictions last September after DNA analysis of a cigarette butt found near weapons used in the murder proved to belong not to either brother, but instead to another man who was later convicted of assaulting three other women. It was concluded that no physical evidence connected Brown and McCollum to the crime.

Pardons from Gov. Pat McCrory now enable the brothers to receive up to $1.5 million in total compensation, though their attorney, Patrick Megaro, has said he’s unsure how long it will take the state to issue payment.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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