Ronnie Long Receives $25 Million Settlement After 44 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

Ronnie Long, a black man exonerated and freed after serving 44 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is to receive $25 million in the second-largest wrongful conviction settlement ever.

At age 21, Long was accused of raping a 54-year old White woman and convicted by an all-White jury of rape  and burgulary in 1976. He received not one, but two life sentences. Long, 68 today,  has now settled a civil lawsuit with the city of Concord and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for a total of $25 million.

Long was helped for years in his criminal case appeal by a wrongful convictions clinic at Duke University’s law school. His attorneys had said that more than 40 fingerprints collected from the scene were never shared and did not match Long’s. Semen samples also were never disclosed to the defense. They later disappeared.

“Elated. Elated. It’s been a long road but it’s over with now,” Long told reporters outside Albemarle Correctional Institution. “Every minute I’ve got left in my life, I’m going to try to enjoy it.”

“It’s, obviously, a celebratory day today knowing that Ronnie’s going to have his means met for the rest of his life with this settlement. It’s been a long road to get to this point, so that’s a great outcome,” clinical professor Jamie Lau, Long’s criminal attorney, said to NBC News.

“Have we found justice in this case? Absolutely not. No amount of money will ever compensate Ronnie for all that he lost, but this is a big step forward for him,” Lau said to the news outlet.

The city of Concord issued a rare public apology to Long and his family.

“We are deeply remorseful for the past wrongs that caused tremendous harm to Mr. Long, his family, friends, and our community,” the city’s statement read. “While there are no measures to fully restore to Mr. Long and his family all that was taken from them, through this agreement we are doing everything in our power to right the past wrongs and take responsibility.”