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Wrongfully Convicted Black Man Wins $25M Settlement, Largest In North Carolina

A Black man from North Carolina is being awarded a historic sum after he was wrongfully convicted of raping a prominent white woman in the 70s.


Ronnie Long, 68, is being awarded $25 million after settling his lawsuit with the city of Concord, which is about 25 miles northeast of Charlotte, for $22 million, according to a news release Tuesday. According to Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation had already settled for $3 million.


Representing Long, the clinic said the settlement is the second-largest wrongful conviction settlement recorded.


"It’s, obviously, a celebratory day today knowing that Ronnie’s going to have his means met for the rest of his life with this settlement. It’s been a long road to get to this point, so that’s a great outcome," clinical professor Jamie Lau, Long's criminal attorney, said in a phone interview Tuesday.



"Have we found justice in this case? Absolutely not. No amount of money will ever compensate Ronnie for all that he lost, but this is a big step forward for him," Lau said.


The city also swallowed its pride and said an apology.


“We are deeply remorseful for the past wrongs that caused tremendous harm to Mr. Long, his family, friends and our community. Mr. Long suffered the extraordinary loss of his freedom and a substantial portion of his life because of this conviction," the city said. "He wrongly served 44 years, 3 months and 17 days in prison for a crime he did not commit."


"While there are no measures to fully restore to Mr. Long and his family all that was taken from them, through this agreement we are doing everything in our power to right the past wrongs and take responsibility," the apology continued. "We are hopeful this can begin the healing process for Mr. Long and our community, and that together we can move forward while learning valuable lessons and ensuring nothing like this ever happens again."


One of Long’s civil attorneys, Sonya Pfeiffer, said that a public apology was a part of Long’s wants in his settlement demand.


On Oct.1, 1976, an all-white jury convicted White, accusing him of raping a white woman at just 21. He was sentenced to life in prison.


There were many issues with the trial, including jury selection. There was also no physical evidence that tied Long to the rape and burglary, and he didn’t match the original description of the suspect — a “yellow or really light-skinned Black male.” Also, a rape kit collected at the hospital disappeared, and it has never been found.


Long was selected as the suspect because he was “the product of a suggestive identification procedure arranged by the police to target Long.”

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