A North Carolina man spent 44 years behind bars for rape charges he said he did not commit.
On Thursday, Ronnie Long was released from the Albemarle Correctional Institution.
“The state said it will ask the district court to enter a writ vacating Ronnie’s conviction. In short, Ronnie Long is coming home!,” wrote Long’s attorney, Jamie Lau.
A federal appeals court had granted a new hearing for Long earlier this week.
One judge criticized North Carolina for defending a possibly wrongful conviction, pointing out that investigators could have withheld evidence.
North Carolina’s Attorney General’s Office filed a motion that says, “interests of justice call for immediately remanding the case to the district court.”
Long was 20 years old living in Concord when he was accused of raping Sarah Judson Bost at knifepoint on April 25, 1976.
An all-white jury had then sentenced Long to 80 years in prison for first-degree rape and first-degree burglary.
Although DNA evidence obtained throughout the years proved his innocence, and numerous appeals have been made throughout the decades, Long remained locked up.
He also had an alibi for the time of the assault, as her was on a group call with his mother and the mother of his child, and was getting ready to attend a party in Charlotte.
In 2015, his attorneys argued that more than 40 fingerprints collected from the scene were not shared on the initial trial, and none of those prints matched Long.
Semen samples were not disclosed to the defense and inexplicably disappeared.
However, the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals denied the request for a new trial in the same year.
“They will never ever, never ever ever, lock me up again,” said Long in an interview.
“This is real. I’m going to try to enjoy every minute of it.”