Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Brothers pardoned after 30-years in prison

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 6:00 AM
In a Wednesday, September 3, 2014 file photo, Henry McCollum walks out of prison after being released from Central Prison in Raleigh. McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown were pardoned last Thursday.

Two brothers will receive more than $1 million from the state of North Carolina after they were wrongfully imprisoned for three decades in the killing of an 11-year-old girl, but for one of them, the windfall isn't the issue.

"It ain't about money," said Henry McCollum, 51, who, along with his 47-year-old brother Leon Brown, was pardoned by Governor Pat McCrory. "It was about just being able to see that I was innocent of a crime I was charged with. It was just a blessing to be out here, to live a normal life."

The pardon qualifies each of the brothers for $50,000 from the state for every year they were imprisoned, with a limit of $750,000 each. The compensation still needs to be approved by a state agency, but it is considered a formality. It's not clear exactly when they could get the money.

Defence attorneys have said the brothers were scared teenagers who had low IQs when they were questioned by police and coerced into confessing. McCollum was then 19, and Brown was 15.

The DNA from cigarette butts found at the scene doesn't match Brown or McCollum, and fingerprints taken from a beer can also found there didn't belong to them either. No physical evidence connects them to the crime, a judge and prosecutor acknowledged last fall.

Based largely on their confessions, both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned.