Attorneys say new evidence proves man's innocence

Friday, August 29, 2008

By NewsChannel 36 Staff
E-mail Us: NEWS@WCNC.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- When he went to prison he was 20 years old. He turns 53 this month and is still behind bars.

All along, Ronnie Wallace Long's lawyers have said their client is innocent of rape. Now, they say they've found new evidence that could prove it and they're asking for a new trial.

An all-white jury in Concord convicted Long of the rape of a prominent white widow -- the wife of a Cannon Mills executive -- in 1976.

NewsChannel 36 reporter Stuart Watson spoke to Long in prison last year.

"Did you rape this woman?"

"No, no. I don't even know the woman," Long said.
Ronnie Long
Ronnie Long
"Never seen her?"

"Till the day I saw her in court," Long said.

The case divided Concord along racial lines. After the verdict, white police beat black protesters with clubs and maced them. Protesters threw rocks and set fires.

"What kind of justice could I receive -- you understand what I'm saying -- under these type circumstances?" Long said.

Now, Long's attorneys have found new evidence that Concord police tested a long list of evidence from the scene of the rape, and those tests found no link to Long.

But prosecutors never turned over the lab reports that seemed to clear him.

"Give the man a fair trial. That's what we're supposed to do in this country is get a fair trial," said Donna Bennick, an attorney with Actual Innocence.

Long was convicted based almost completely on the eyewitness testimony of the victim, who is now an elderly woman. Police, prosecutors and the victim were convinced.

"I feel confident. I don't feel like I have a doubt on this one really," said Long's father, Ike, who told police from the start they had the wrong man. "I didn't raise no angels, but I say they just like anybody else. They get in trouble. They get out of trouble, but you all got Ronnie accused of the wrong thing."

Ronnie Long's high school friend Aaron Pharr has written and phoned Long every week for 32 years.                        

"Ronnie and I go back so many years," Pharr said. "I honestly believed he was telling the truth then and I believe it now, and I just want the facts to prove once and for all that he is innocent."

Long's attorneys have asked for a new trial. They hope Judge Erwin Spainhour will grant a hearing on their motion.

While the motion is pending, Long turns 53 years old in two weeks, still in prison.

Innocent Imprisoned
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct

Truth in Justice