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North Carolina man freed after 1976 rape conviction vacated

August 28, 2020 GMT
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FILE - In this 2007 file photo, Ronnie Long stands in a hallway at the Albemarle Correctional Institution in Albemarle, east of Charlotte, N.C. The attorney for Long, a North Carolina man who has spent 44 years in prison for a rape he says he didn't commit, will be freed. The Charlotte Observer reported that Long's attorney shared the news via Twitter on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (Peter Weinberger/The Charlotte Observer via AP)
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FILE - In this 2007 file photo, Ronnie Long stands in a hallway at the Albemarle Correctional Institution in Albemarle, east of Charlotte, N.C. The attorney for Long, a North Carolina man who has spent 44 years in prison for a rape he says he didn't commit, will be freed. The Charlotte Observer reported that Long's attorney shared the news via Twitter on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. (Peter Weinberger/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina man who spent 44 years in prison for a rape he says he didn’t commit was freed Thursday.

Ronnie Long’s attorney broke the news of his impending release via Twitter on Wednesday, the Charlotte Observer reported.

“The state said it will ask the district court to enter a writ vacating Ronnie’s conviction. In short, Ronnie Long is coming home!” lawyer Jamie Lau wrote.

Long’s conviction was then vacated on Thursday and he was released from the Albemarle Correctional Institution shortly after 5 p.m., news outlets reported.

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Earlier this week, a federal appeals court had granted a new hearing for Long. A judge had criticized North Carolina for defending Long’s conviction despite the possibility that investigators withheld evidence.

A motion filed by North Carolina’s Attorney General’s Office said that “interests of justice call for immediately remanding the case to the district court.”

Long was a 20-year-old Black man living in Concord when he was accused of raping a white woman. Long’s attorneys have 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.