Henry McCollum and Leon Brown have been awarded $75 million after spending more than three decades in prison after being wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of a girl.
Sabrina Buie’s body was discovered in a soybean field in Red Springs, N.C. The 11-year-old’s underwear was stuffed down her throat. Investigators from the State Bureau of Investigation and the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office went to the nearest house. A man named Roscoe Artis was spoken to but officers but did not run a background check on him.
Brown and McCollum were arrested in 1983. They were exonerated in 2014 after DNA implicated another suspect — Roscoe Artis. DNA evidence was found at the crime scene and eventually tested. The brothers say they were both coerced into giving false confessions. McCollum was then 19, and Brown was 15. Both were convicted and sentenced to death.
The brothers would spend almost 31 years behind bars, a massive chunk of their lives.
Attorney Elliot Abrams said his team presented evidence proving investigators withheld information in Brown and McCollum’s initial trial.
“There was a heinous rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl and the government said these two people did it and confessed to it. There was nothing to counter that,” Abrams said. “We now know they covered it up intentionally.”
The jury awarded them $31 million each in compensatory damages. A year for each year they were incarcerated. McCollum and Brown will also receive an additional $13 million total in punitive damages.