LUMBERTON, N.C.-- Two North Carolina men who have been in prison for decades are now free and at home tonight with family.
One of the men is the state's longest serving death row inmate. DNA evidence proved both were innocent after serving 30 years for a rape and murder they did not commit.
According to the attorneys for the two men, Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown, new DNA evidence proved their innocence. A judge in Robeson County dismissed all charges against McCollum, who was living under a death sentence, and his half-brother, Brown, who was serving a life sentence for the rape.
The judge exonerated McCollum and Brown and released them from prison. Both are severely intellectually disabled and were teenagers--McCollum 19 years old, Brown --15 at the time of their arrests in 1983.
McCollum and Brown were released after a hearing Tuesday morning in Robeson County Superior Court, in which the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, an independent state agency, detailed the results of its investigation, including DNA testing of items found at the crime scene.
The Commission found that none of the items could be traced to McCollum or Brown. Instead, critical DNA evidence matched another individual named Roscoe Artis, a convicted rapist and murderer who lived less than 100 yards from where the victim's body was found.
Attorneys for the two men said the new testing leaves no doubt about their clients' innocence.