Half brothers Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were finally pardoned this month after spending 30 long years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

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Photo: Newsobserver.com

In 1983, McCollum and Brown were convicted of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl named Sabrina Buie in North Carolina. At the time McCollum was 19 and Brown was 15.

According the the Washington Post, both were mentally disabled, and the police coerced them into signing confessions. Those confessions were a major factor in the evidence against them.

McCollum and Brown were originally sentenced to death. However, after a retrial, Brown was convicted of rape and given a life sentence, while McCollum returned to death row.

In an an Aug. 12, 2014 photo, Henry McCollum sits on death row at Central Prison in Raleigh, N.C. He and his half brother Leon Brown have spent more than three decades in prison for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983. On Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, lawyers for Lawyers for 50-year-old McCollum and 46-year-old Brown will ask for their release, saying DNA analysis of a cigarette butt found at the crime scene in Robeson County link it to a man serving a life sentence for a similar rape and killing that took place a month later. The Center for Death Penalty Litigation says that man was the real killer of Sabrina Buie in 1983. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Travis Long) MANDATORY CREDIT, TV AND TV WEBSITES OUT
Photo: Time

After years of voicing their innocence, the two men were released this past September after DNA evidence pointing to another man was discovered. In fact, this very man was already sentenced to life in prison for a raping and murdering another victim less than a month after the death of young Sabrina Buie.

Yet for some reason, Joe Freeman Britt, the district attorney who prosecuted the two in 1983, still states that he thinks both McCollum and Brown are guilty.

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Photo: NYTimes

Currently, the men may receive more than $1 million from the state of North Carolina for their wrongful convictions.

After learning that the two men who spent 30 years in prison are innocent, I wonder how many stories like these exist. Personally, it's hard to look past the fact that this took place in the '80s in the south, and that the police might have wrongfully judged McCollum and Brown based on their race and mental disabilities.

It's also hard to ignore the fact that in North Carolina, half of those sentenced to the death penalty are black, while blacks only account for approximately 21% of the state’s population.

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