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Innocent Man Released From Prison After 44 Years Says He Will 'Cherish' His Freedom

Innocent Man Released From Prison After 44 Years Says He Will 'Cherish' His Freedom

Ronnie Long was found guilty by an all-white jury of burglary and rape

Rebecca Shepherd

Rebecca Shepherd

An innocent man who spent 44 years behind bars for a rape and burglary he didn't commit has told Good Morning Britain he will 'cherish' the remainder of his life.

Ronnie Long was convicted of the crimes by an all-white jury back in 1976 and was sentenced to 80 years in prison despite there being hair fibres and fingerprints that didn't match his.

The 64-year-old was eventually released on 27 August after his legal team reviewed the evidence. Speaking about his case, US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephanie Thacker, said that vital evidence, including semen samples and fingerprints from the crime scene, were purposely withheld by police.

Speaking to GMB, Mr Long said: "I'm still trying to get used to it. I haven't been out too much yet. This is something I'm going to cherish for the remainder of my life.

"How much more time do I have on the face of the earth, I'm going to try and do the best that I can to enjoy what I have."

Mr Long with his attorney Jamie Lau on the day of his release.

When he was asked what he was enjoying most about being released, he humbly answered: "Being with my wife and being with my family, being able to eat what I want.

"Just to be able to get up in the morning and see the sun rise, knowing that people aren't watching you and you're not still behind a fence.

"Just the pleasure of being free to walk up the street, go downtown, buy a shirt. Just that little freedom, you understand, is enough. It's overwhelming compared to where I come from."

Ronnie Long on GMB.
Good Morning Britain/ITV

Mr Long's attorney Jamie Lau is a law professor at Duke University and a faculty adviser for the Duke Law Innocence Project.

He told CNN that police deception was pivotal in Long's conviction: "Because of the deceit that occurred at trial, Ronnie and his counsel at the time didn't have the benefit of that evidence to present to the jury.

"So he's been wrongly incarcerated for 44 years. The cards were heavily stacked against him and a large part of that was the racial dynamics in North Carolina in the South, and in particular Concord, North Carolina, in 1976."

The view of federal judges was that Long was imprisoned in no small part because of the colour of his skin.

Judge James Wynn of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "Mr. Long, a black man, was tried in 'small town' 1970s North Carolina by an all white jury for the rape of the white widow of a prominent local business executive."

Featured Image Credit: Good Morning Britain/ITV

Topics: TV and Film, News