Two men are planning to ask for pardons after they were freed this week from prison following the discovery of evidence that they didn't kill a young girl 30 years ago.
Vernetta Alston, an attorney for Henry McCollum, says lawyers representing him and his half brother, Leon Brown, are preparing petitions for a pardon of innocence and plan to file within the next couple of weeks.
Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement that he was happy their convictions were vacated and that he was prepared to receive their pardon request.
This week, a judge ordered that Brown and McCollum be released, citing new DNA evidence in the 1983 slaying of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie that indicates she was killed by another man.
One of two men who spent thirty years in prison for the rape and murder of an eleven-year-old girl in 1983 walked out of Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County on Wednesday.
"I want you to know God is the one who brought me out and delivered me," Leon Brown said Wednesday. "I couldn't have made it out if it weren't for the lord."
46-year-old Brown and 50-year-old Henry McCollum were ordered to be freed from prison Tuesday in a courtroom in Lumberton. Their lawyers argued another man who is already serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of another child is the one who is responsible for the crimes against Sabrina Buie. The eleven-year-old girl was raped and killed in 1983 in Red Springs in Robeson County.
Brown and McCollum confessed to the crime as teens, but DNA evidence and fingerprints from the crime scene do not match either man. Both men are mentally challenged.
While Brown has been in prison in Greene County, McCollum has been serving time at Central Prison in Raleigh. He was released on Wednesday as well.
Family members in the courtroom Tuesday were overjoyed. The judge's ruling was met with applause and cheers.
"We waited years and years," said James McCollum, the father of Henry McCollum. "We have kept the faith, waited on God making a move. He made a move, and they're released."
"Our prayers are out for the Sabrina Buie family. We are praying for them, and we are so glad that justice is served and the truth finally came forth," said McCollum's mother, Priscilla McCollum. "And we thank God for that, and we're going to go on with our lives."