The Innocent on Death Row
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of New York Times
Posted: September 9th, 2014
In late September 1983, an 11-year-old girl named Sabrina Buie was found murdered in a soybean field in Robeson County. She had been raped, beaten with sticks and suffocated with her own underwear. Within days, police got confessions from two local teenagers, Henry Lee McCollum, 19 at the time, and his half brother, Leon Brown, who was 15. Both were convicted and sentenced to death. On [September 2], a state judge ordered both men freed after multiple pieces of evidence, some of which had never been turned over to defense lawyers, proved that neither Mr. McCollum nor Mr. Brown was responsible for the crime. DNA taken from a cigarette found at the crime scene matched a different man, Roscoe Artis, who is already serving life in prison for a similar murder committed just weeks after Sabrina Buies killing. Virtually everything about the arrests, confessions, trial and convictions of Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown was polluted by official error and misconduct. No physical evidence linked either man to the crime, so their false confessions, given under duress, were the heart of the case the prosecutors mounted against them. Both mens confessions were handwritten by police after hours of intense questioning without a lawyer or parent present. Neither was recorded, and both men have maintained their innocence ever since. Equally disturbing, Mr. Artis was a suspect from the start. Three days before the murder trial began, police requested that a fingerprint from the crime scene be tested for a match with Mr. Artis, who had a long history of sexual assaults against women. The test was never done, and prosecutors never revealed the request to the defense.
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