CONCORD, N.C. — A man who spent 44 years proving his innocence is now fighting for what he calls some sense of justice.
Ronnie Long finally got compensation from the state for the 44 years he spent behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
But Long said the money he got isn’t nearly enough and his attorney agrees, saying the amount is based on an old law that doesn’t make sense in this case.
"North Carolina intentionally put me in the penitentiary and you tell me $750,000 is worth 44 years of my life? You killed my mother and my father," Long said.
Last August the courts ruled Ronnie Long had been wrongfully convicted and he was freed 44 years after he was sent to prison. Last December the governor finally pardoned him making way for the 65-year-old to get compensation from the state.
He just got his $750,000 check.
"I ain’t satisfied, no I’m not satisfied, I'm gonna start shaking trees," Long said.
The amount is based on a state statute that said the state will pay someone who was wrongfully convicted $50,000 a year for their time in prison – but the amount is capped at $750,000. That means Long got nothing for more than two-thirds of the time he was behind bars.
Jamie Lau is the supervising attorney for the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic and was Ronnie Long's criminal attorney.
"We’re grateful the pardon was issued and that he had some means of financial security. Of course, $750,000 is a meager sum when you think of 44 years of your life," Lau said. "That cap is completely inadequate when you can consider people losing so much time in their lives."
Long wants more.
"I'm gonna fight that s---. I’m gonna fight that s---," he said.
Long said several civil attorneys have reached out to him and he’s weighing his options going forward.
"You put me in the penitentiary for 44 years and during that time you destroy evidence, you lose evidence, tamper with the jury, you commit perjury and everything about the trial was a mockery," Long said.
Still, he said, he’s making the most of his freedom. He’s focused on getting healthy, he and his wife Ashleigh take long bike rides and he recently bought a car. The Cadillac he’s always dreamed of thanks to a deal at the dealership.
"Even though I'm still struggling, I'm blessed," Long said.
WCNC Charlotte's coverage timeline of the Ronnie Long case:
- November 2009: Concord man gets second day in court after 32 years
- March 2010: NC Supreme Court hears appeal from Concord man
- August 2014: Prison wedding for Concord lifer claiming innocence
- February 2020: Wrongfully convicted? Concord man has new hope for appeal after 44 years
- March 2020: Concord man serving for crime he says he didn't commit has to wait longer for appeal due to COVID-19
- April 2020: Update: Concord man claiming innocence will get his day in court — virtually
- May 2020: Concord man claiming innocence will get his day in court virtually on Thursday
- May 2020: 44 years later, Concord man's innocence argued in appeals court
- June 2020: 'We know this is a racial injustice' | Renewed plea to release Concord man claiming innocence
- July 2020: "I'm struggling to stay alive" | Concord man loses his mom while in prison and awaiting a decision on his freedom
- August 2020: 44 years later, federal appeals court rules the rights of Concord man were violated at trial
- August 2020: 'This is the epitome of injustice' | NC NAACP president calls for immediate release of Ronnie Long
- August 2020: 'I’ve been crying happy tears' | A man who maintained his innocence for 44 years to be freed from prison
- August 2020: Ronnie Long is now a free man after maintaining his innocence for 44 years
- August 2020: Ronnie Long's son was just 3 years old when his father was arrested. Now he's ready to make new memories
- August 2020: Wife: Ronnie Long wants to 'eat a steak first thing' after 44 years in prison, attorney plans to request pardon of innocence from governor
- August 2020: Cabarrus County won't retry Ronnie Long case, ending decades-long fight for freedom
- December 2020: Gov. Roy Cooper granted a pardon of innocence for Ronnie Long