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North Carolina man freed after 1976 rape conviction vacated

CONCORD, N.C. – A North Carolina man who spent 44 years in prison for a rape he says he didn’t commit was freed Thursday.

Ronnie Long’s attorney broke the news of his impending release via Twitter on Wednesday, the Charlotte Observer reported.

“The state said it will ask the district court to enter a writ vacating Ronnie’s conviction. In short, Ronnie Long is coming home!” lawyer Jamie Lau wrote.

Long’s conviction was then vacated on Thursday and he was released from the Albemarle Correctional Institution shortly after 5 p.m., news outlets reported.

Earlier this week, a federal appeals court had granted a new hearing for Long. A judge had criticized North Carolina for defending Long’s conviction despite the possibility that investigators withheld evidence.

A motion filed by North Carolina’s Attorney General’s Office said that “interests of justice call for immediately remanding the case to the district court.”

Long was a 20-year-old Black man living in Concord when he was accused of raping a white woman. Long’s attorneys have said that more than 40 fingerprints collected from the scene were never shared and did not match Long’s. Semen samples also were never disclosed to the defence. They later disappeared.

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