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31 Yrs Later, Child Rape/Murder Verdict Overturned

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Printed Date: Dec 17 2018 at 10:52am

Topic: 31 Yrs Later, Child Rape/Murder Verdict Overturned
Posted By: PurplePhase
Subject: 31 Yrs Later, Child Rape/Murder Verdict Overturned
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 5:36am
thanks goodness for the Innocence Project. These men lost most of their lives locked up for something they didn't do.
I used to have a strong hate for District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt.


Judge overturns convictions of Robeson men in child's 1983 rape, murder

By Joseph Neff

LUMBERTON, NC— Despite a judge’s order declaring them innocent and freeing them after almost 31 years, prison officials insisted that Henry McCollum and Leon Brown remain in their custody Tuesday for one final night behind bars.

The packed courtroom erupted in applause and tears after Superior Court Judge Doug Sasser ordered them freed.

McCollum did not even smile afterward, his face beaded and his dress shirt dappled with sweat, his hands still cuffed and legs in chains.

“I thank God for the strength to carry me through 31 years,” McCollum said.

Leon Brown allowed himself a broad smile, saying he was “feeling real good right now.”

The brothers were kept apart on Tuesday and did not talk with or touch each other.

They will face a bewildering and difficult time, having been locked up their entire adult lives. Both are mentally challenged, with IQ tests scoring in the 50s or 60s. They struggle with basic reading and writing, and they have lived three decades in a world where guards told them when to wake, dress, eat, shower and sleep.

Prison officials said McCollum and Brown needed to be processed before being freed. McCollum spent Tuesday in Central Prison in Raleigh, and Brown was returned to Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County.

For decades, the crime they were convicted of has been known as a horror show of young men gone wild, gang-raping an 11-year-old girl, Sabrina Buie, and killing her by stuffing her panties down her throat with a stick.

The brothers were ordered freed after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence tying the killing to Roscoe Artis, a sexual predator with a lengthy criminal history, including a similar rape and murder in Red Springs one month after the arrest of Brown and McCollum.

Prosecutors had argued at trials in the 1980s and 1990s that the killer left a cigarette at the crime scene. Recent DNA tests of that cigarette found Artis’ DNA on it.

Sharon Stellato of the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission testified Tuesday that Artis, who is in prison in Warren County, told her in several interviews that Brown and McCollum were innocent.

“If the police would have done their job, then Leon and Henry wouldn’t be in prison,” Stellato quoted Artis as saying.


McCollum was 19 and Brown 15 when they were arrested in Red Springs, a small town in Robeson, a poor county on the South Carolina border with a long history of violence and tense relations between whites, blacks and Lumbee Indians.

The district attorney who put them on death row, Joe Freeman Britt, no relation to the current DA, was listed in Guinness World Records as the “deadliest prosecutor,” responsible for the most death sentences in the United States.

The main evidence against the brothers was two detailed confessions, written in longhand by law enforcement and signed by each brother.

The other two men cited in the confession were never prosecuted; one was in another town that night and there was no evidence against the fourth.

McCollum and Brown have said they were coerced into confessing.

Johnson Britt, the district attorney, said Tuesday that the DNA evidence destroyed the case against the brothers and supported their exoneration.

Britt said his decision was stressful, given that Sabrina’s slaying was the most notorious in the modern history of Robeson County, and perhaps of North Carolina. He remembered fellow law students at Campbell University missing class to attend the trial about “the little girl who had her underwear stuffed down her throat.”

After a six-hour hearing in the Robeson County courthouse, Sasser, a judge from nearby Columbus County, read his order from the bench, throwing out their convictions, declaring them innocent and ordering their immediate release

Joe Freeman Britt, who prosecuted the brothers in 1984, said he was stunned by the outcome.

“It’s a tragic day for justice in Robeson County,” said Britt. “That case was fought with powerful arguments, but apparently the district attorney just threw up his hands and capitulated.”

Ken Snead, a retired SBI agent and lead investigator, said he was disappointed.

“Someone should have been called today to refute the evidence.”


Rosie Mae Williams, aunt to McCollum and Brown, said her family never believed for a second that Brown and McCollum were guilty.

“I’ve been praying 31 years,” Williams said. “But right after the trial, the people wanted to kill them, kill them in a hurry.”

Posted By: newdiva1
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 5:46am
*sucks teeth*

Posted By: PurplePhase
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 5:56am
ND, Me too.
and after seeing JFBritt's comment on the overturned verdict, it looks like I can continue hating him.

Posted By: bindy
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 6:10am

Posted By: yurika975
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 6:12am
Disgusting the hatred he has and the stupidity in the face of irrefutable evidence.

Posted By: carolina cutie
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 6:51am

And fcuk  the prosecutor and his present day supporters. DNA trumps stupidity!

Posted By: PurplePhase
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 7:04am
cc, I wonder how many  innocent people he 'had' executed . And how many  still sit in prison innocent.

Posted By: nitabug
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 7:05am
I can't even be happy. Their lives were taken too.

Posted By: rell85
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 9:09am
Good i guess.

Posted By: creole booty
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 9:50am
The crime though! That's chilling. He was on the streets with us walking free and sh*t.

Posted By: K_Camille
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 9:54am
The comments of the prosecutor and investigator..heartless.  A shame these men had their entire lives snatched over a crime they didn't commit.  That's one of the scariest things about "justice."

Posted By: briany
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 10:55am
Especially American justice.

Posted By: exoticmami06
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 11:22am
The crime though.... terrible.

Posted By: Gkisses
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 11:39am
The crime . ..seeing the prosecutors comments and Guinness record makes me wonder how many of those killed were innocent blks.

Posted By: ThatGurlD
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 12:04pm
How can we unify and dismantle the prison system?  We know what it is.  One in fifteen black men is in prison.  It is not even a question of innocence but intention.  

Posted By: carolina cutie
Date Posted: Sep 03 2014 at 3:46pm
Originally posted by PurplePhase PurplePhase wrote:

cc, I wonder how many  innocent people he 'had' executed . And how many  still sit in prison innocent.
A lot. I would bet a lot. Especially in the Southern US.

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