Back in 1983, an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina was brutally raped and murdered. Shortly thereafter, two brothers were arrested for, charged with, and convicted of the crime, and they have been in jail ever since. Until today, that is.
Explosive new DNA evidence has implicated someone else in the murder of the child. As a result, the two brothers will leave prison today free men, having had the last 30 years of their lives stolen from them by a clearly flawed system of justice.
Our criminal defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert know that while a crime such as the one at the center of this 1983 case is heinous and emotion-fueling, it is critical to rememeber that careless prosecutions can not only fail to serve justice, but can also create a tremendous injustice, as was the case for the two wrongfully-convicted brothers.
In 1983, brothers Henry McCollum (now North Carolina’s longest-serving death row inmate) and Leon Brown were just teenagers. Now, a shocking 30 years later, they have had their lives stolen from them in what can only be described as a terrible miscarriage of justice. During the original trial thirty years ago, the prosecutor told the jury that the young girl’s body was found dumped amidst condoms, beer cans and cigarettes, a horrible image for any parent to hear; an image that wants those respomsible to pay. People did pay, but as we now know, it wasn’t the people who were actualy responsible.
You see, new DNA evidence from one of the cigarette butts found at the crime scene matched somebody else, not Henry McCollum or Leon Brown, initially accused, defamed and convicted of the brutal murder. The DNA match wasn’t just anyone; it was a convicted rapist and murderer who lived just 100 yards from where the girl’s body was found.
As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, the prosecutor who handled the brothers’ case in 1983 is none too pleased with their planned release. When talking to news outlets, he complained that the men had three trials and each juror believed they were guilty (perhaps due to confessions which the defense attorneys have argued were forced). But here is what is most striking about the prosecutor’s comments: he said, “You know how hard it is to get a conviction in a capital [murder] case?”
Reading between the lines, our criminal defense lawyers at Leifert & Liefert see a prosecutor who got lucky, was recognized for a capital murder conviction (which he admitted is exceptionally difficult to achieve), and doesn’t want to let go of that praise. While egos are delicate things, the preservation of freedom of innocent individuals is far more important. DNA evidence is a relatively recent phenomenon; had this been around at the time of the trials, our lawyers think these two men would never have been convicted in the first place.