A packed North Carolina courtroom erupted in applause and tears after Superior Court Judge Doug Sasser ordered brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown freed after almost 31 years in prison for a rape-murder they didn’t commit, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. “I thank God for the strength to carry me through 31 years,” McCollum said. Brown said he was “feeling real good right now.”
They will face a bewildering and difficult time, having been locked up their entire adult lives. Both are mentally challenged, with IQ tests scoring in the 50s or 60s. They struggle with basic reading and writing, and they have lived three decades in a world where guards told them when to wake, dress, eat, shower and sleep. The brothers were ordered freed after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence tying the killing to Roscoe Artis, a sexual predator with a lengthy criminal history. The commission’s Sharon Stellato testified yesterday that Artis, who is in prison told her Brown and McCollum were innocent. “If the police would have done their job, then Leon and Henry wouldn't be in prison,” Stellato quoted him as saying.