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Ronnie Long Receives $750K In Restitution, But Will Push For More

Ronnie Long (left) walks out of prison in August 2020.
Ronnie Long (left) walks out of prison in August 2020.

An attorney for Ronnie Long says North Carolina's cap of $750,000 in restitution for people wrongfully imprisoned is "wholly inadequate" considering Long's 44 years behind bars, and he says Long will push for more.

Long was imprisoned for 44 years for for a rape he did not commit. He was released in August 2020 after a judge vacated his sentence, and he was later pardoned by Gov. Roy Cooper.

That made him eligible for compensation under a state law that allows those who are wrongfully incarcerated to receive up to $50,000 per spent spent in prison, up to $750,000.

The maximum amount, however, would only equate to about a third of Long's time behind bars.

In a statement, Long's attorney, Jamie Lau, says while Long is grateful for the compensation, he deserves far more. He says Long lost his working years to incarceration and has no savings. His parent died while he was in prison, and he missed his son's birthdays and graduations.

Long, who is Black, was convicted by an all-white jury in Cabarrus County in 1976.

Lau says Long is considering legal action to pursue more restitution from the state. He also says lawmakers should revise the compensation statute to make it more accessible and beneficial for those wrongfully incarcerated.

Full statement from attorney Jamie Lau:

"While grateful that Mr. Long received $750,000 in compensation, the amount is wholly inadequate to compensate him after taking away more than 44 years of his liberty. He was in a cage when both his parents died; when his son had birthdays and graduations. He lost everything for those 44 years, and certainly he deserves more than he has received.

He will explore whatever remedies are available for holding those responsible for his wrongful incarceration accountable, and to ensure that he is financially secure in the future. Unlike you and me, he lost his working years to incarceration and has no savings. He entered prison healthy and left broken. His ongoing financial security is the least he deserves after so much was taken over those 44 years. If remedies are available to improve his financial well-being, they will be pursued.

The legislature established a cap of $750,000 several years ago to compensate men and women who were wrongfully incarcerated. Since that time, at least two men have been exonerated after more than 40 years of incarceration, which highlights the inadequacy of the compensation statute and that cap. It's time to revisit this amount since we are learning the magnitude of the harm caused by wrongful convictions in North Carolina. It's also time to revisit the compensation statute as a whole, as the Governor should not have full authority over who does and does not receive compensation. A review process that is not political should be established so all men and women who have been wrongly convicted has a fair chance at compensation."

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Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal