Henry McCollum & Leon Brown: The Backstory

The Backstory

In 1983, Sabrina Buie was raped and murdered in a field in the small town of Red Springs in Robeson County, North Carolina.

In 1984, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were wrongfully convicted after their false confessions were admitted in court.

In 1988, the North Carolina State Court overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial in State v. McCollum, 321 N.C. 557.

In 1991, Henry was retried and – wrongfully – found guilty again; Leon was tried in 1992 and – wrongfully – found guilty.

In 1994, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia cited the pending McCollum v. North Carolina in defending the death penalty.

The case sat for years until, assisted by top-flight attorneys at the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a Duke law professor, and attorneys working pro bono at private law firms began pressing for DNA tests.

The tests confirmed that neither Henry nor Leon, both of whom are learning disabled, were involved at all in the crime. Their confessions, which had been immediately retracted, had been coerced, aided in part by their low IQs.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.