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Black man convicted of rape of white woman in 1976 has heard his appeal

Federal professional judge rules on whether or not to exempt a black man who has been behind bars for 44 years for raping a white woman, after his lawyers say investigators lied LIE about evidence

  • In 1976, Ronnie Long was sentenced to life behind bars for the rape and theft of prominent North Carolina woman Sarah Bost
  • Bost identified Long as her attacker and died decades later, still sure he was the man who raped her
  • Long has always maintained his innocence and his case is now being heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • His lawyer says the police hid evidence of the crime scene after Long failed to link the crime scene

A federal appeals court will soon decide whether or not to release a black man who has been in prison for 44 years after being convicted of raping a white woman.

An all-white jury initially sentenced Ronnie Long to life behind bars for the rape and theft of Sarah Bost in Concord, North Carolina, in 1976.

Long, now 64, has always kept his innocence, despite the fact that his appeal has been repeatedly dismissed.

In January, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia confirmed his conviction in a 2-1 vote, despite admitting that police had “corrupted” the initial investigation.

Long’s lawyers, however, asked to be heard by the entire Fourth Circuit of 15 judges – who are now deliberating on the case.

I have long hoped that the current account of racial injustice will help him get out.

“In 1976 you got a young black man on a white jury … for assaulting a rich, wealthy, white woman. I mean, what justice is that? Long said CBS ’48 hour program.

A federal appeals court will soon decide whether or not to exempt Ronnie Long, who has spent 44 years in prison after being convicted of raping a white woman. He is shown at the time of his arrest in 1976

Long is depicted in prison in 2007. He spent 44 years in prison to maintain his innocence

Long is depicted in prison in 2007. He spent 44 years in prison to maintain his innocence

A federal appeals court will soon decide whether or not to exempt Ronnie Long, who has spent 44 years in prison after being convicted of raping a white woman. He is shown on the right at the time of his arrest in 1976. He is shown on the left in prison in 2007

Long was only 20 years old at the time of his conviction.

Bost, 54, was the wealthy widow of a local textile manager and a prominent figure in Concord, who was largely separated at the time of the trial.

Bost identified Long as the man who raped her – and died believing her attacker was behind bars.

However, Long’s current lawyer, Jamie Lau, believes she was mistaken.

“There are very clear examples of people who believe with high confidence that they have identified the right attacker to be proven the wrong one later,” he told 48 Hours.

Lau says the police have deliberately hidden evidence that Long Walk would have been free.

Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene, but that information was never shared with jurors or Long’s lawyers at the time.

The prints and hair did not match Long’s.

“Not only did they hide evidence, but they took the position under oath and lied about the evidence,” Lau said.

Crime scene photos are shown. Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene. None of the evidence matched Long

Crime scene photos are shown. Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene. None of the evidence matched Long

Crime scene photos are shown. Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene. None of the evidence matched Long

Long's current attorney, Jamie Lau (pictured), told 48 hours that police lied to jurors about evidence they had obtained at the crime scene

Long's current attorney, Jamie Lau (pictured), told 48 hours that police lied to jurors about evidence they had obtained at the crime scene

Long’s current attorney, Jamie Lau (pictured), told 48 hours that police lied to jurors about evidence they had obtained at the crime scene

Detectives pointed to the fact that there was a black jacket in his car, a piece of clothing Bost said her attacker was wearing.

However, Long’s attorney Jamie Lau told 48 Hours: “It was a ubiquitous garment for black men at the time, in part because the movie ‘Shaft’ came out a few years earlier.”

The Long family says they have hope that the 15 jury members will exonerate him.

However, the damage has already been done.

Long’s son, Carlos Spears, was only three years old when his father was convicted. He is now 47.

“I want the world to know that Cabarrus County has imprisoned an innocent man and that they must go on and give him justice,” Spears said for 48 hours.

The decision is pending.

Long's son, Carlos Spears, was only three years old when his father was convicted. He is now 47. He is depicted speaking at 48 hours

Long's son, Carlos Spears, was only three years old when his father was convicted. He is now 47. He is depicted speaking at 48 hours

Long’s son, Carlos Spears, was only three years old when his father was convicted. He is now 47. He is depicted speaking at 48 hours

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