CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s been 24 hours since Ronnie Long became a free man.
He was released after spending 44 years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit. This week, a federal appeals court ruled his rights were violated and the state threw out the conviction.
So what’s life like for him after so many years behind bars? Ronnie Long’s wife, Ashleigh Long, offered a glimpse into his first night at home. She tweeted, ‘I’m totally laying in bed next to my husband’
“I feel like I'm in a dream,” Ashleigh Long told WCNC Charlotte.
Ashleigh Long says Ronnie made it clear what he wants to do next.
“He definitely wants to eat a steak, first thing when he gets out, he wants to get his driver’s license,” said Ashleigh Long.
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Ronnie Long spent 44 years in prison, after being convicted of rape by an all-white jury in 1976. This week, a federal appeals court ruled the state violated Long’s rights when they didn’t take a closer look at the possibility he was innocent, pointing to a patter of ‘extreme and continuous police misconduct’. That ruling prompted the state to throw out his conviction.
Long’s attorney, Jamie Lau, expected the Cabarrus County District Attorney’s Office will dismiss the pending charges.
“There’s not even probable cause that exists today to have him charged with that crime,” said Lau.
Lau says he also plans to request a pardon of innocence with the governor.
“The governor would have to issue a pardon of innocence for Mr. Long to receive statutory compensation from North Carolina for the 44 years of his life that were stolen by this wrongful conviction,” said Lau.
Lau says it’s premature to discuss any further potential civil litigation. Ashleigh Long tells WCNC Charlotte their power was out last night, so they didn’t sleep well, but she’s confident he will adapt to his new life.
“He’s a survivor,” said Long’s wife.
WCNC Charlotte reached out to the Cabarrus County District Attorney’s Office for comment, but at this point have not heard back.
WCNC Charlotte's coverage timeline of the Ronnie Long case:
- November 2009: Concord man gets second day in court after 32 years
- March 2010: NC Supreme Court hears appeal from Concord man
- August 2014: Prison wedding for Concord lifer claiming innocence
- February 2020: Wrongfully convicted? Concord man has new hope for appeal after 44 years
- March 2020: Concord man serving for crime he says he didn't commit has to wait longer for appeal due to COVID-19
- April 2020: Update: Concord man claiming innocence will get his day in court — virtually
- May 2020: Concord man claiming innocence will get his day in court virtually on Thursday
- May 2020: 44 years later, Concord man's innocence argued in appeals court
- June 2020: 'We know this is a racial injustice' | Renewed plea to release Concord man claiming innocence
- July 2020: "I'm struggling to stay alive" | Concord man loses his mom while in prison and awaiting a decision on his freedom
- August 2020: 44 years later, federal appeals court rules the rights of Concord man were violated at trial
- August 2020: 'This is the epitome of injustice' | NC NAACP president calls for immediate release of Ronnie Long