Exonerated Half-Brothers Claim Coercion

     (CN) – Two mentally disabled half-brothers sued North Carolina law enforcement officials on Monday for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment for the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.
     Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown spent almost 31 years in prison until DNA testing of a cigarette butt found at the crime scene linked another local man to the death of Sabrina Buie. McCollum and Brown have both been diagnosed as mentally handicapped, the federal lawsuit states.
     The brothers were release from prison in September 2014, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory pardoned them in June.
     The lawsuit names Robeson County, the Town of Red Springs, Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey and other law enforcement agents who worked on the case as defendants.
     Police coerced confessions from then-teenagers McCollum and Brown, who had very low IQs and succumbed to threats from Sealey and other officers, the lawsuit claims.
     Their handwritten confessions incorrectly listed the color of the victim’s underwear and falsely stated that she had been stabbed with a knife, according to the complaint.
     Sitting on death row since his conviction, Brown wrote a letter to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2009 requesting review of his case, and the commission reportedly acquired a court order directing the Red Springs Police Department to hand over all forensic evidence.
     The cigarette butt was found to contain the DNA of McCollum and Brown’s former neighbor Roscoe Artis, who was serving time for the 1983 rape and murder of Joann Brockman. Artis had befriended McCollum and Brown in jail and repeatedly told them that he knew they were innocent, according to their lawsuit.
     “When revealed in 2014, both plaintiffs found it extremely difficult to accept that Roscoe Artis was responsible for the murder of Sabrina Buie when he had seen them face to face daily for decades, all the while maintaining a friendship based on fraud,” the complaint states.
     McCollum and Brown seek an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages for claims of false arrest, due process violation, malicious prosecution and municipal liability.
     “Defendants based their case on an informant that was objectively unreliable and untrustworthy, withheld exculpatory evidence from the prosecutor, the courts, and plaintiffs’ defense lawyers, and participated in the fabrication of inculpatory evidence that they knew, or reasonable should have known, was false,” the lawsuit states.
     McCollum and Brown are represented by Patrick Megaro in Orlando, Fla.

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