CONCORD, N.C. — A federal appeals court ruled Ronnie Long's rights were violated because of extreme police misconduct. Many people believe Long, a Concord man, was wrongfully convicted 44 years ago.
Now, the president of North Carolina’s NAACP and people across the state are calling for his immediate release.
In the opinion handed down Monday, several judges said they believe Long is innocent and told the lower court to fix things immediately — but Long is still sitting in prison.
The president of North Carolina's NAACP Reverend T Anthony Spearman is among the many fighting hard to free Long, and he's grateful for a big win in the case.
“I think it was a wonderful day for justice," Spearman said.
A federal appeals court ruled 9-6 in Long’s favor, saying the lower court was wrong in not closely examining the Concord man’s potential innocence.
An all-white jury found Long guilty of rape in 1976 – he has maintained his innocence for the 44 years he’s been behind bars.
“Ronnie should be free — the decision today made it clear,” said Jamie Lau, Long's attorney.
In fact, three of the judges said they believed he is innocent and it should be a closed case based on what they called “extreme and continuous police misconduct." That includes lab tests that show long was “not linked to the crime scene in any way.”
Spearman likened it to the George Floyd case that recently reignited the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This is tantamount to the Ku Klux Klan knee being on the neck of Ronnie Long for not eight minutes – for 44 years," he said.
In the ruling, the judges made it clear they want the lower court to act quickly considering Long’s age and the number of years he’s already been incarcerated.
“This is the epitome of injustice certainly we need to get it right,” Spearman said.
There have been several protests and more planned this week in the push to get Long out of prison. His lawyer also filed a petition yesterday to release him in light of the coronavirus that has infected almost 200 people at the prison where he’s being held.