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Five Pardons Could Receive $750,000 Each In Restitution

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Five wrongfully convicted Black men pardoned by Governor Roy Cooper on Thursday are now eligible for up to $750,000 each for compensation for their years behind bars.

One of those men is Ronnie Long. Long spent 44 years in prison after being sentenced to life for raping a white woman. He was exonerated in August.

Attorney Jamie Lau, who represents Long, says the restitution is not enough.

“He missed the funerals of loved ones, birthdays, graduations, the milestones of life,” Lau said. “So there's no amount of compensation that can make up for those losses, but, at the very least, it will help him have some security moving forward."

The other four men pardoned were Teddy Isbell, Kenneth Kagonyera, Damien Mills and Larry Williams. They were convicted of playing a role in a robbery and murder in Buncombe County. All were exonerated.

Lau added that these pardons will help all the men move forward with their lives.

“The recognition this pardon brings and the compensation that comes with it is significant and necessary to make these men whole again for what was stolen from them by the state of North Carolina,” Lau said.

Lau says North Carolina should make receiving restitution for wrongful convictions easier to obtain, and that the state needs to address the systemic problems that lead to the disproportionate incarceration and wrongful convictions of Black men.

For Cooper, who was recently reelected to a second term, these are his first pardons since he took office in 2017.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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