By Brad Friedman on 9/3/2014, 7:04am PT  

I'm sure fans of the Death Penalty will be terribly disappointed to learn that these two men have had their convictions tossed after 30 years in jail and before they could be killed by the Government...

LUMBERTON, N.C. - A North Carolina judge overturned the convictions Tuesday 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 of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46. 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, who lived close to the soybean field where the dead girl's body was found, is already serving a life sentence for a similar rape and murder that happened less than a month later.
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Authorities said McCollum, who was 19 at the time, and Brown, who was 15, confessed to killing Buie.

Attorneys said both men have low IQs and their confessions were coerced after hours of questioning. There is no physical evidence connecting them to the crime.

Both were initially given death sentences, which were overturned. At a second trial, McCollum was again sent to death row, where he remains, while Brown was convicted of rape and sentenced to life.

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UPDATE 9/3/2014: Dahlia Lithwick at Slate offers more details on this case, and explains how U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited the case of McCollum, who we now know to be innocent, several times over the years in support of the Death Penalty.