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RALEIGH, N.C. -- A Concord man has hopes for a new trial after spending 34 years in prison.

The North Carolina Supreme Court listened to arguments in Ronnie Long's case on Wednesday.

Attorneys for Long told the Supreme Court justices that Concord police withheld key evidence. They hope that argument wins him a new trial and the chance at freedom.

Practically, can you have a trial 34 years later? asked Justice Edward Brad at the hearing Wednesday.

Can you keep a man in prison who is innocent? responded Marylin Ozer, Long's attorney.

Long has maintained his innocence since his arrest in 1976.

No (I did not rape her). I didn't even know the woman, Long told NewsChannel 36 in a 2007 prison interview.

An all-white jury convicted Long of the rape and burglary of a prominent Concord widow, whose husband was an executive at Canon Mills.

The conviction was based on the eyewitness identification of the victim, who pointed out Long to officers in a lineup when police brought the victim to court to see him.

The state still says it got the right man.

She made a point to look at him while he held a knife and threw her to the floor violently, Deputy Attorney General Dan O'Brien told the justices, recalling what the victim told police.

But Long's attorneys cite case after case of white victims picking out the wrong black suspect.

You can never be sure, especially with cross-racial. In the heat of the moment you want to be sure, but you can be very wrong, said Ozer.

Primarily at issue before the Supreme Court is whether a Concord police detective withheld evidence that pointed to Long's innocence, including a rape kit that was never tested.

The absence of that type of evidence just stands out, said Justice Robert Edmunds.

This is a rape case. How can the most important evidence just be allowed to disappear? said Ozer.

Long's attorneys want the Supreme Court to order a new trial. His family, including his sister Linda Smith, wants him freed. Smith drove to the hearing from the Concord area.

Those are seven bright people in there so I hope they make the right decision, Smith said.

It is unclear when the state Supreme Court will make a decision. It could take months.

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