Covid and Commutation: Calls to #FreeRonnieLong

UPDATE: Ronnie Long’s conviction was vacated and he was released in late August. Details to follow.

Albermarle Correctional Institution has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in the NC prison system,* meaning Ronnie Long, 64, faces the viral threat as well as decades remaining on an 80-year sentence that his attorney says he should not be serving at all.

Jamie T. Lau is an attorney and law professor at the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Duke University. AshLeigh Long is Ronnie’s wife and advocate (see Lau and Long joined “Community thru Covid” on July 29 to discuss pandemic conditions at the prison, Ronnie Long’s case, and the call for his sentence to be commuted. Their discussion begins near the top of the hour.

Later in the program — around 38:00 mark — Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP, shared his organization’s support for commutation in Ronnie Long’s case. Rev. Spearman added some important historical background and his reaction to the recent en banc hearing. (More on the hearing and the case overall.)

In addition, Rev. Spearman pointed out that Gov. Cooper, unlike his predecessors, has yet to commute, pardon, or grant clemency for a single prisoner…even as pandemic rages North Carolina prisons. The NC NAACP is gathering clergy support for Ronnie Long’s case. Check back here — or contact NC NAACP — for updates.

Ronnie Long and the Wrongful Convictions Clinic

Ronnie Long was accused, at age 19, of a burglary and rape. From the start, back in 1976, numerous concerns were raised about the proceedings: oddities about the victim’s identification of Long, an all-white jury from which the sheriff had potential jurors removed for a trial of a Black man, and accusations that the police withheld evidence. (See the Innocence Project’s summary.) Requests for a new trial have been slowed by Covid-19, and pandemic at the Albemarle facility makes release more urgent. Supporters are currently asking Governor Ray Cooper to commute the sentence.

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic, at Duke University School of Law, investigates plausible claims of innocence made by North Carolina inmates convicted of felonies. Jamie Lau is an associate clinical professor of law, supervising attorney for the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic, and faculty adviser to the Innocence Project. He has worked toward several exonerations and, in his previous position with the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, investigated post-conviction claims of innocence.

Action Suggestions

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has expressed public support for “Black Lives Matter,” AshLeigh and Professor Lau told listeners. So all interested are asked to contact the governor — via Tweet, email, or phone call — with a simple message: “IF Black lives matter to you, then commute the sentence of Ronnie Long.”

More details are available at the campaign’s website, and here for convenience are some pertinent emails.

Clemency Office:
Attorney General:

*North Carolina Dept of Public Safety recently reported 105 of 775 tests returned positive; three NC prisons report higher rates.



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