A man who spent 44 years in jail for a crime he did not commit says his freedom is ‘breathtaking.’
64-year-old Ronnie Long finally got out of prison after his burglary and first-degree rape convictions were vacated by the US District Court.
In an interview with 48 Hours, Long said: “To be able to walk out of the gates without being supervised, it was breathtaking.”
Now that he’s finally out of prison, Long plans to spend his time with his loved ones.
In 2014, he tied the knot with Ashleigh Ward, a former UNC Charlotte criminal justice student.
“I know my mother and father died with a broken heart,” Long expressed. “I’m gonna tell them now, when I visit the gravesite, ‘Your son is clear.’”
Long was convicted of raping Sarah Judson Bost at knifepoint on the evening of April 25, 1976. He was 20 years old at that time and was living in Concord, North Carolina.
Bost believed that the rapist was Long, who had been making an appearance in court for a minor case. She also said that she recognized his voice.
But Long said he was on a group phone call with his mother and the mother of his child at the time of the assault.
However, he received an 80-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty of raping Bost.
Even though DNA evidence and 43 fingerprints obtained throughout the years pointed to Long’s innocence, he remained in prison.
Long said to 48 Hours: “I feel as though the criminal justice system here in this state failed me.”
He added: “I’m 64, going on 65. They took my life away from me when I was 20 years old. I ain’t got nothing but memories. But yet, and still, you say the evidence collected in the case was immaterial?”
Long is now entirely clear of all charges against him.
Long and his lawyers plan to request a pardon of innocence from the governor. This would let him get money from a state fund reserved for wrongfully convicted people.
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