After spending 30 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, two North Carolina brothers are walking free and will receive $750,000 for their troubles. Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were just 19 and 15 years old when they were reportedly coerced by police into confessing to the 1983 murder and rape of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie.
According to Time, they were initially sentenced with the death penalty but the state Supreme Court called for new trials in 1988. McCollum was sent back to death row, and Brown was convicted of rape and received a life sentence. They were exonerated in 2014 after DNA evidence proved cigarettes from the crime scene didn’t match either brother, nor did the fingerprints on the beer can found near her body.
North Caroline Gov. Pat McCrory granted both brothers an official pardon back in June, qualifying them to receive $50,000 from the state for every year spent in prison, with a limit of $750,000. They are also eligible to get educational benefits from the state.
Despite all that time spent behind bars, McCollum, who said he carries no ill will, is determined to put his newfound fortune to good use. “My family, they have struggled for years and years,” he said. “It’s hard out there for them, and I want to help them.” He also plans to assist troubled youth.
For their sister Geraldine Brown, however, this victory won’t erase the past. She told reporters that Brown suffers from mental health issues including PTSD and diabetes, stemming from his lengthy prison stay. “He did not go in that way,” she said.