A man named Ronnie Long have been freed after 44 years in prison for wrongful conviction of raping woman.
Mr Long was sentenced to 80 years in prison after he was found guilty of raping Sarah Bost in 1976 but after years of appeals, his conviction has been thrown out.
The 64years-old man was accused of raping Sarah Bost, 54, at knifepoint in her home in Concord, North Carolina on the evening of April 25, 1976.
He was sentenced to 80 years in prison for first-degree rape and first-degree burglary.
What followed were decades of appeals for his conviction to be overturned, according to MIRROR.
In 2005, Ronnie filed a petition to review biological evidence from the scene and to submit DNA testing.
It then emerged that hair samples and clothing fibers didn’t match Ronnie, and it was later discovered that none of the evidence was ever shared with the defense during his trial in 1976.
And in 2015, it was revealed that 43 fingerprints from the crime scene “excluded Long as the source of those prints,” according to court documents.
Despite these revelations, his quest for a new trial was rejected by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
But earlier month, a court ruled Long’s due process rights were violated under the constitution when he was convicted.
Ronnie walked from prison a free man on Thursday. He told reporters outside the court: “They will never ever, never ever ever, lock me up again.
“This is real. I’m going to try to enjoy every minute of it.”
According to court documents “a man entered the home” of Bost, who was 54 at the time, in 1976.
He also “put a knife to her throat.” When Bost was unable to give the intruder any money, the man “became angry, cursed her, threw her to the ground, ripped her clothes off, beat her, and raped her.”
The next day, Bost was shown 13 photos of potential suspects. Ronnie was not included in the photos and she could not identify any of them as the attacker.
Two weeks later, detectives told Bost that her attacker might be in court on the day she was asked to attend. Long attended court for a separate trespassing charge and Bost said she recognised Long’s voice.
She later picked Long out of a photo lineup. She told officers “there was no doubt in her mind that this person Ronnie Long was the person who entered her house.”
Despite the lack of physical evidence linking Ronnie to the crime scene and an alibi, he was arrested and later found guilty.
Long’s mother and the mother of his two-year-old son at the time said he was on a group phone call with them when the attack was reported to have taken place, records say.
Long lived with his mother and was preparing to attend a party in Charlotte that night, they said.
The fourth Circuit opinion, led by Judge Stephanie D. Thacker, cited “a troubling and striking pattern of deliberate police suppression of material evidence.”
A main argument by prosecutors to the jury, it said, was that “police acted honestly.”
A petition was launched calling for Ronnie to be released. Nearly 40,000 signed it.
Speaking outside of the prison, Ronnie told WBTV : “Don’t ever give up. No matter how rough it can be, always believe that you can overcome. The name of the game is surviving.
“Hopefully incidents like this can be avoided. If you see injustice being done against somebody – then speak out against it. Speak out, if you don’t then hate it, hate it with all your heart.”
Hi sister Lynda Smith added: “Yeah, this is the happiest news I done had in a long time.
“The Long family have really had their moments, and this is lifted a big burden off of us.”
Jamie Lau, Ronnie’s attourney, broke the news of his release on Twitter.
He tweeted: “The State of NC filed a motion with the Fourth Circuit this morning asking that it immediately issue the mandate in Ronnie Long’s case.
“The state said it will ask the district court to enter a writ vacating Ronnie’s conviction. In short, Ronnie Long is coming home!”
The case isn’t entirely closed. Local prosecutors could refile charges. But Lau doesn’t think that will happen.
“I’m optimistic the charges will be dropped,” he said. “What evidence could the state present? There is none.”
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles tweeted: “Ronnie Long suffered through 44 years of injustice. I can’t imagine the strength he and his loved ones needed to endure it. I am elated that he will soon be free.”