30 years ago I was 24 years old and married to my first wife. We had two sons and we lived in Sonoma County, California. I was the branch manager for a pest control company that was based in San Jose. Ronald Reagan was president, the Olympics were in Los Angeles and the economy was booming.
These two guys were in prison:
A North Carolina judge overturned the convictions Tuesday of two men who have served 30 years in prison for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl after another man’s DNA was recently discovered on evidence in the case.
Superior Court Judge Douglass Sasser ordered the immediate release of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46. The half brothers were convicted in the 1983 slaying of Sabrina Buie in Robeson County.
Lawyers for the men petitioned for their release after DNA evidence from a cigarette butt recovered at the crime scene pointed to another man. That man, who lived close to the soybean field where the dead girl’s body was found, is already serving a life sentence for a similar rape and murder that happened less than a month later.
Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt acknowledged the DNA discovery in court papers. He said evidence from the original trial is being tested again and he hasn’t decided whether he retry McCollum and Brown.
Buie was found in a rural soybean field, naked except for a bra pushed up against her neck. A short distance away, police found two bloody sticks and a cigarette butt.
Authorities said McCollum, who was 19 at the time, and Brown, who was 15, confessed to killing Buie.
Attorneys said both men have low IQs and their confessions were coerced after hours of questioning. There is no physical evidence connecting them to the crime.
Both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was again sent to death row, where he remains, while Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life.
The DNA from the cigarette butts doesn’t match either of them, and fingerprints taken from a beer can at the scene aren’t theirs either. The other man now suspected in Buie’s killing was convicted of assaulting three other women over 30 years before his last conviction.
Cases like this are the reason I oppose the death penalty.
Not because I feel any pity or sympathy for murderers and rapists. Whoever raped and murdered 11 year old Sabrina Buie back in 1983 does not deserve to live. But these two men spent 30 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Both of them could have been executed!
I’m sure the cops thought they caught the right guys. I don’t doubt the detectives believed the men’s confessions were genuine. I’m sure the jury thought they were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t doubt they had good attorneys who tried their best to defend them. I’m sure the trial judge made all the right rulings. All the i’s were dotted and every t was crossed.
But the system still failed.
When we come up with a perfect system, then I’ll support the death penalty. Of course by then we won’t need one.