Larry Little, WSSU students, join fight to free Ronnie Long

Ronnie Long

Larry Little, WSSU students, join fight to free Ronnie Long
January 31
01:45 2019

A lot has changed since 1976. Ten different presidents have taken office, the Internet and social media has changed the way we communicate, and thanks to Uber and Lyft, people are more comfortable riding with a stranger than taking public transportation. But for 63-year-old Ronnie Long, not much has changed over the past 42 years.

Long has been in jail since he was 19 years old for a crime he says he didn’t commit. And last week students from Winston-Salem State University joined the fight to help Long seek justice. 

In 1976 Long was convicted of burglary and rape during an alleged attack of a wealthy white woman in her home in Concord.  The victim, the widow of a top-executive at Cannon Mills, a textile mill in Kannapolis, told officers she was in her kitchen on April 25,1976, around 9:30 p.m. when she felt someone grab her from behind. 

According to police reports, the man pressed a knife to the victim’s neck and threatened to kill her before he ripped off her clothes and raped her. Initially the victim, who has since died, described her attacker as a black man wearing a beanie and possibly gloves. She also later said her attacker was “yellow-looking” or light-skinned.

On the day of the trial, despite having no evidence connecting him to the crime scene and having an alibi, Long was sentenced to 80 years. Over the past 43 years, Long has maintained his innocence and during that time, more information has come to light to support his claim that he wasn’t given a fair trial.

For example, the jurors in the trial were all white and handpicked by officers with the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s office. A hair was found on the scene that didn’t match the victim or Long and wasn’t included in evidence files.

While there are several other red flags in the handling of Long’s case, the way Long was identified may be the most alarming.  About two weeks after the incident, after she couldn’t identify her attacker in a photo line-up, officers took the victim to the district court wearing a disguise and told her that her attacker “may” or “may not” be in the courtroom that day.

Long was in the courtroom that day for a misdemeanor trespassing charge that was dismissed. After waiting for about an hour, the judge called Long to the front. He had no idea he was being watched. As soon as he stood up wearing a long black leather coat, the victim identified Long as her attacker. The officers immediately took the victim back to the police station, showed her a photo line-up of possible suspects with Long’s photo included, and she identified him again.

On May 10, 1976, officers showed up to Long’s house and told him he needed to come fill out papers for the trespassing charge and that he would be back in a few minutes.

He hasn’t been home since. 

“… They told my mother I would only be gone 10 to 15 minutes; those minutes have now become 43 years,” said Long during a phone call last week.

Long said he put his faith in a system that is supposed to seek out the truth and do what’s right, but after a few years dealing with the system, it became obvious that he was dealing with a system that is willing to ignore evidence, logic and common sense.

“… My legal documents are online; I have nothing to hide. I was a young black man charged with sexually assaulting a very wealthy white female. I was tried by a white D.A. before a white judge and convicted by an all-white jury,” continued Long. “… They have no physical or biological evidence to connect me to the crime. My case went before a seven-judge panel and came back in a 3-3 tie. The N.C. Supreme Court has seven judges. Why did my case end in a 3-3 decision?”

Long said the handling of his case was nothing more than a “modernized lynching sanctioned by law.” He went on to say he’s not looking for any special favors or privileges; he only wants a fair trial.

“All that I ask is what the Fourth and the Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution guarantees me. And that’s due process and equal protection under the law. I have the right to a fair trial.”

Over the years Long has filed several appeals, but none have been successful. But in 2017 the Fourth District Court agreed with Long and sent the case back to District Court, where it is now.

While discussing Long’s case during WSSU’s History, Politics, & Social Justice Spring Colloquium on Thursday, Jan. 24, Jamie T. Lau, supervising attorney of the Duke Wrongful Conviction Clinic, said, “This system here in North Carolina can wear you out and wear you down.

“…That’s what they’ve been trying to do in Ronnie’s case.”

Lau, who joined team “Free Ronnie Long” in 2014, said when he looked at the case, he saw someone who fell victim to backlash from the state in response to the progress that occurred in the 1960s. He said that backlash manifested its way into the criminal justice system.

Arguments for Long in the Fourth District Court will begin March 19-21. Lau said he is optimistic that Long will finally see justice. He said when looking at the evidence, it’s clear the law enforcement officers who investigated the case lied to conceal information and evidence that proved Long was innocent.

After listening to the evidence presented in the case, Dr. Larry Little urged dozens of students in attendance to rally together and demand elected officials do the right thing and free Ronnie Long. Little, a co-founder of the local chapter of the Black Panther Party and current associate professor of social science at WSSU, is well known for his involvement in the exoneration of Darryl Hunt, who was wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes in 1984.

Little encouraged the students to start a petition and a possible march on Attorney General Josh Stein’s office. He told the students it’s not easy doing this kind of work, but they can make a difference.

“… It can be long and it can be frustrating, but we can have success. We’ve heard the evidence. They know the truth. They just won’t do justice, so what I suggest we do is start a petition drive,” continued Little. “… Those are the things you have to do. If we do this for Ronnie, I promise you they will have to make a move.”

For more information on the case of Ronnie Long or to join the fight for his freedom, visit Free Ronnie Long on Facebook.

About Author

Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors