DURHAM, N.C. (WBTV) - For the first time, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has responded to the calls from nearly 50,000 people to pardon Ronnie Long.
There are currently four men waiting for a pardon of innocence, including Ronnie Long, who was released from prison in late August after spending 44 years for a rape in Concord he didn’t commit.
Long was released from prison after decades of legal proceedings that ended with his conviction being vacated and the charges dropped.
Despite that, he’s still not considered ‘innocent’ in the eyes of the State of North Carolina without a pardon from the governor.
That means Long will also not receive any compensation from the state for the decades he spent behind bars.
In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Gov. Cooper responded to a question about a petition with nearly 50,000 signatures, calling for him to pardon Long.
“That petition from Mr. Long, which I think was received a couple of weeks ago, will receive careful consideration by me and my office. It is a significant power of a governor to be able to make decisions about what a judge and jury have done and I take that power under the constitution very seriously and we’ll review that application along with others,” Gov. Cooper said.
According to Ronnie Long’s attorney, if Cooper doesn’t pardon him or three other innocent men who spent decades in prison, he’ll be the first governor in 40 years to go through a term without granting clemency to a single person.
“He served 44-plus years in North Carolina for a crime he didn’t commit; in a case that the Fourth Circuit (Court of Appeals) has described as egregious and continuous state misconduct. And, yet, he’ll get nothing for it if the governor doesn’t grant a pardon of innocence,” Long’s attorney, Jamie Lau of the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic, explained.
Lau said the governor’s office hasn’t given any response to the four men who have applied for pardons and, in fact, won’t even release a full list of people who have filed clemency applications.
Cooper’s inaction in the Long case continued even after 14 Democrats elected to the state house and senate wrote him urging a pardon.
“I’m a progressive individual,” the law professor said. “Roy Cooper is supposed to be representing me and other progressive individuals who want to see the criminal justice system do better.”