By JONATHAN DREW Associated Press
LUMBERTON, NC (AP) — A North Carolina judge has overturned the convictions of two men who have served 30 years in prison for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl after another man’s DNA was recently discovered on evidence in the case.
Superior Court Judge Douglass Sasser ordered the immediate release Tuesday of 50-year-old Henry McCollum and 46-year-old Leon Brown. The half brothers were convicted in the 1983 slaying of Sabrina Buie in Robeson County.
Lawyers for the men petitioned for their release after DNA evidence from a cigarette butt recovered at the crime scene pointed to another man.
That man is serving a life sentence for a similar rape and slaying that happened less than a month after Buie was killed.
Buie was found dead in a rural soybean field, naked except for a bra pushed up against her neck. A short distance away, police found two bloody sticks and a cigarette butt.
Authorities said McCollum, who was 19 at the time, and Brown, who was 15, confessed to killing Buie. But attorneys said both men have low IQs and their confessions were coerced after hours of questioning.
Both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was again sent to death row, while Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life.
The other man now suspected in Buie’s killing was convicted of assaulting three other women over 30 years before his last conviction.
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