My name is Ronnie Long.

I spent 44 years of my life in North Carolina prisons as an innocent man.

I was convicted in 1976 at a trial in Cabarrus County, N.C. that denied me my basic rights and showed what a toxic, racist criminal justice system the state of North Carolina has. I was 21 when I was convicted by a white jury of raping a white woman. The district attorney and judges were white, the police from Concord Police Department lied on the stand and hid evidence for 30 years like fingerprints and a rape kit that proved my innocence. It wasn’t a trial, it was a modern-day lynching.

I was finally released from prison this August after a federal court agreed with me that I had been robbed of 44 years of my life. I am now 65 and have been living off of donations since while I waited for a pardon from Gov. Roy Cooper which would allow me compensation from a state fund for wrongfully convicted people. The governor gave me the pardon on Thursday, and now I feel I might be able to live a comfortable life.

You can read more about what happened in this Cardinal & Pine article:

More on my pardon:

Watch an interview with me:

And read more on my website


Comments: 214 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

cardinalpine182 karma

Hey there, this is Ronnie Long here and I’m ready to take your questions about the 44 years I spent in prison as an innocent man, and my life now that I’m out. I’ll be here for the next hour.

LandoVonDoom23 karma

Thinking about planning any trips out of the country? I can imagine that getting out of a place that doesn’t embrace our broken institutions might be a relief mentally even if it’s just for a little while.

cardinalpine136 karma

I’ve always wanted to see certain parts of the world. But, if I’ve got to fly or I got to take a boat to get there I don’t have any business going there. I was just in Ohio, people booked us in an exclusive hotel. We went up and got on the 11th floor. I had to close all the windows, I didnt’ want to look out the window. I’m scared of heights, I can’t swim. Man is meant to be land. If God intended me to be in the water or in the sky, he’d have given me gills or wings. I’d like to see Miami, New York. Ft. Lauderdale. I would like to be in Rio De Janeiro for Carnival . I’ve been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, I was there in 1974 or 1975. - Ronnie

solecito_suavecito156 karma

Sorry to hear what happened to you man. How are you feeling?

cardinalpine318 karma

I mean it’s an adjustment compared to where I came from. If you knew where I came from, you would see this is a struggle, it’s an adjustment. It’s something I’m gonna need help with. But I got people around me trying to guide me in the right direction. When I came out August 27, I could see how much things have advanced, technology, from 1976 to 2020. Technology has taken control of a whole lot of things. And jobs, people are now being replaced by technology.

I got to roll with the punches. But compared with where I’ve come from, I’ll deal with the ups and downs all day instead of those ups and downs inside those institutions. - Ronnie

wtfishappeninginnyc63 karma

I’m in Cabarrus County. What can we get you for Christmas?

cardinalpine266 karma

A CT6. A Cadillac. I want it straight off a car lot, brand new. I’m only kidding, but I will accept it under the tree. - Ronnie

Thisthatgreypoupon50 karma

Can I buy you lunch? Let me know where to send $$. I'm sorry for what you went through, I cant even imagine

cardinalpine112 karma

I got a Go Fund Me page, It’t what I’ve been living off of. I appreciate your concern, I appreciate your prayers and it’s going to take compassionate people. We need to be able to relate and deal with eachother. I don’t care where you go in the world, if you respect the next person, you won’t have problem getting respect from others. - Ronnie

bittertiltheend45 karma

What is the hardest thing to adjust to now that you’re out?

cardinalpine164 karma

I mean, getting the recognition that I deserve for being treated unjustly by a system that is corrupt and toxic. Here in North Carolina, you’re talking about a system that thinks it’s above the law. Right now, the biggest pain I’m trying to adjust to is survival. That’s the biggest things I’m dealing with, trying to make a living for me and my family. With the pardon I just got from the governor, that did alleviate some of the stress and tension, with me being able to live as a productive citizen. - Ronnie

AMK4kids33 karma

Hi Ronnie. I have been a supporter and following Ashleigh and your story for at least 4 years. That's when I read and saw your case. I haven't read through the other questions so I apologize if this is a double. How does it feel to be free? The world is so much different than it was in 1976. What have you enjoyed the most since your release? Is it difficult for you to sleep? Much love to you and yours. I am elated for you and Ashleigh and your family. Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. I know good things will continue and I will continue to keep you in my prayers 🙏 💙

cardinalpine100 karma

If you have a dog, take your dog and put him on a chain and put in the backyard for two or three weeks. Leave him there for two and three weeks, and then let him off -- watch that dog take off. That’s how I felt, that a weight, a burden had been lifted off me. To sit here, to drink lemonade, and eat Frosted Flakes and Cap’n Crunch with chocolate milk. You can’t get that in prison. I tried it once when I was a kid and I ain’t looked back. Those are the little conveniences that you have with being able to be free in society. To walk up the street, go to the grocery store, to go to the zoo, to go to the park. You can’t do those things. I’m blessed, and I’m glad God blessed me to the point that I got a second chance. I am a living testament that you can always overcome. iIt dont’ matter what the circumstances are, as long as you have faith. Never let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. When you start believing that you can’t, then you begin to have doubt about yourself and your accomplishments. - Ronnie

aGiantmutantcrab33 karma

Hello, Mr. Long.

I can't imagine what you've gone through. I am truly, deeply sorry that you had so much time stolen from you.

My question is; will there be any legal consequences for the individuals who lied, hid evidence and created this kangaroo court that robbed you of 44 years of freedom? Will these people who voluntarily committed criminal activities have their own day in court and face charges?

cardinalpine49 karma

Deuteronomy 19:15-21. That’s what I have for you. Here’s what it says, when a person bears false witness against you and the punishment that he was seeking for you, then that same punishment shall be issued upon him. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,. - Ronnie

gemfountain31 karma

First of all, god bless you, and I hope your holidays are awesome. Do you think that your story can help others that have been wrongfully convicted? I can't imagine having to scrape off all the bitterness from what you had to endure. Do you plan to advocate for others?

cardinalpine92 karma

I am now known for 44 years in prison. If you’re going to stay anywhere for 44 years, you’re going to learn something. I know there are cases out of North Carolina counties where the D.A.s, local prosecutors, police did not do what they should have done under the 14th Amendments. If I’m poor, my family is poor, and I’m inside this institution at the NC Department of Public Safety —you either max out or you die out. You’ve got to keep filing things, letting them know that you are still fighting. I knew I had been lied on, I knew I had been falsely convicted, and I knew I couldn't let this go on without being rectified. So every day, by the grace of God, I give honor to the Creator, for blessing me and those around me for putting people in my life that I feel can assist me and aid me.

There’s brothers I know that have been behind the fences for 40, 45, 50 years. And you’re letting people with the same charges walk out of prison. You need to at least let them work, have some money, so when they step out of the fences, they got some money in their pockets. Or let them out, with COVID-19, you can’t socially distant in a prison. They treated us as scum, scum of society. Instead of the penitentiary being overcrowded, those NC DPS administrators need to do their job and let those people out. - Ronnie

Chamanzan27 karma

Glad you're free and I hate that the justice system failed you, as it continues to do even today for so many people. What was it like getting out after 44 years? What things, technology or otherwise, made you feel like you just jumped into the future?

cardinalpine85 karma

When I first got out, I didn’t know how to pump gas. It’s a process, everything is a process. Just yesterday, I went to the department store, I haven't been in one for a while. I’m standing around, looking, fascinated by the crowds, it’s been so long since I’ve just been around people, and society. And this woman looked at me, trying to figure out if I was trying to buy something or just rob the store. That’s what she told me, ‘you trying to buy something or rob the place.” I got some humor out of that. It’s things people take for granted - sitting on my deck in the sun, walking the dog, taking the trash out. Those are things I cherish. - Ronnie

AsIs523 karma

How do you deal with the fact that life screwed you over? How do you overcome the bitterness? How are you not consumed by hate?

cardinalpine78 karma

When you are inside those institutions, you live by a code. It’s about surviving and being able to walk outside and see society again. There’s a lot of mischief and deceit going on inside those institutions. But love and respect are two key factors that you can apply anywhere, and dealing with anyone in society.

When they first locked me up, the first two or three years, I was suicidal. I was suicidal because I was locked up in these institutions I didn't understand. True indeed, I’m angry. True indeed, I’m upset. How can you do this to a person and get away with it?

But I told myself that everyday I was in, I was not going to stop fighting. I was not going to let those corrupt police who lied and scandalized my name and my family's name. I did everything I could do to clear my name and my family’s name.

I’m 65, I don't have time to be bitter, thinking about those people that tried to hurt me. Yes, I was upset. And more so, I was disappointed. I was disappointed in a system that I felt failed me.

I couldn't get anyone in the judicial system in the state of North Carolina to recognize the constitutional violations. Animosity, hatred, that's not going to destroy me, I’m going to take it as it comes. I don't like what they did to me, but I’m not going to get stressed out. Life goes on and I’m hoping and praying that God has a better plan for me. ‘Vengeance is mine,’ said the Lord. ‘Let me rectify the wrong.’ - Ronnie

fishinbarbie22 karma

On the light side, what has been your favorite thing to eat since you've been free? Any new food discoveries?

cardinalpine71 karma

I had some smoked salmon, that was new. You don’t smoked salmon in the penitentiary. I had some BBQ beef ribs, lemonade and Sprite. Those things that you don't’ get inside, those are the little things that right now people in society take for granted. Once you have those things taken away, you cherish them. - Ronnie

cardinalpine17 karma

rilesOG12 karma

Do you hold any animosity to the judge or jury members who wrongfully convicted you?

cardinalpine34 karma

From the beginning it was a setup, where in the United States does the chief of police go down a master jury list and start deleting names that he stated he knew explicitly? The documents speak for themselves. There were 50 potential jurors chosen, only three of them were Black. My question was this, in a county were Blacks are 20 to 25%, why is it I only got 2 Black potential jurors. The DA dismissed it, left me with 12 white jurors. One detective committed perjury on the stand, and another, who was an evidence custodian, deliberately wrote a false report saying that evidence was sent to the SBI and tested negative for me. Judges , NC Supreme Court has 7 judges. They usually have an odd numbers so there is never an even vote. My appeal case when the NC Supreme Court, maybe in 2011 or so, and it ended up in a 3-3 tie. One judge wouldn’t make a decision, and I had to stay in prison. Any time a high court can not reach a decision, then the lower court decision stands. Judges, I’m going to say this, and I say this with all sincerity, if it don’t be for Judge Stephanie Thacker, her and Gregory Wynn, who is the chief justice in the Fourth District, I wouldn’t be here. Wynn was born in Concord, grew up in there and in court arguments, he said he grew up there and knew that the racism I faced was exactly what they were doing to Black men there in 1976. - Ronnie

wtfishappeninginnyc10 karma

Why do you think Governor Cooper finally decided to give you a pardon now after your case had been on his radar for so long (even before he was elected governor, according to the article)?

Where did you and your legal team’s efforts meet the most resistance - for example, did the Governor’s office seem more concerned that pardoning you would open the floodgates to many more applications? Was he waiting till after he was re-elected? Worried about media backlash?

Sorry if these are difficult or triggering questions. I am so glad you’ve been released, but have very mixed feelings about the process and congratulating those who made it happen when they could have done so sooner. I hope you’re not left with nothing more than a quick burst of GoFundMe donations after Cooper takes credit & the news cycle moves along to something else.

It’s especially sad that most people who would pitch in so you and your wife can be comfortable probably have a lot less spare cash right now.

cardinalpine17 karma

I say this, and I say it with a sincere heart. I don’t think Gov. Cooper was forced to do. He did what he thought was right. There were four people that had been waiting with me for that pardon, they had been waiting for seven years. That wasn’t just his turn, that was the man’s turn before him. Then you got me, that’s five. Then you got three more waiting on pardons-- Dontae Sharpe, Howard Dudley and Ray Finch. All Black men. That’s the eight we know about. You have eight men that were tried by the same judicial system in the same 8 have been exonerated. What does that tell you about the criminal justice system in the state of North Carolina? I think Gov. Cooper realized it was the right thing to do. I’m glad he had compassion in his heart. I’m glad God touched him and gave him the avenue to make the right decision. - Ronnie

joycookpr9 karma

Ronnie, what is the involvement of the NC NAACP and when did they get involved in your case? CONGRATULATIONS on your pardon so long overdue. Merry Christmas!

cardinalpine21 karma

When I first got arrested, my people, my family, they would protest (in 1976). They put a curfew on Cabarrus County, the national guard got called in to respond. My family, we made a request to the NAACP, back around 1976/1977, and I didn’t get a response. At those times, whoever the president was, they didnt’ get involved. But the current president of the NC NAACP, Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, he came aboard just recently and they got involved with my case. The Rev. Spearman, he took interest in my case and he and I, right now, got an open line of communication. But when I first started out, I had no assistance from the NC NAACP. - Ronnie

peely_gonna_stealy7 karma

Do you think you can ever forgive the people for what they did to you?

cardinalpine62 karma

Forgive? I’ll forget. I don’t think I’ll be able to forgive but I can forget and move on. I could say I could forgive those people, but then I’d be lying. I can’t forgive the deception, but I can forget the reception. - Ronnie

Kinder226 karma

What are your thoughts on the legal system and racism in general in America, today compared to 44 years ago? Any improvement or same old same old?

cardinalpine34 karma

Racism is like a disease. You can take a white baby and a Black baby, same age, girls, and put both of them in the same sandbox and they’ll sit there and play all day until an adult comes up. You’re not born racist, this is something that is instilled. I will say this much, compared to the 1970s, in 2020, more people are conscious of the injustice that is being done to be people for no reason. Then you have police in the streets that are assassinating Blacks. Is it here to stay? Will it always be here? Hell no, on Judgement Day, it’ll be abolished. Burt right now, now. Racism is a disease and it’s something that is learned. - Ronnie

fingers6215 karma

I'm glad you've finally gotten what you deserve and have been released. What did you do to keep occupied for 44 years? Lots of reading/studying?

cardinalpine38 karma

I haven’t gotten what I deserve yet. I did a lot of reading, writing, things that are going to utilize the mind that you have. The only thing you can do is to utilize time to the best of your ability. I used to do a vocabulary thing, where I’d open up a dictionary and choose a word every day, right it down and stick it in my pocket. Then I’d go through the day using the word. I’d read the Bible, Koran. And lots of horror, mystery novels. I would read a lot of Patricia Cornwall books, Dean Koontz, John Carpenter, I’d like to read novels that would lift me out of the everyday. A book, when you’re sitting around and trying to utilize your time, a book can take you all over the world. Places you’ve never been before. - Ronnie

TheAnxiousBenzo4 karma

What was it like living your last days in prison during the pandemic? Now that you’re out, what do you think about the whole coronavirus situation and how the country is dealing with it?

cardinalpine15 karma

The mumps, measles, flu, smallpox, those are diseases that have always been around, going to always be around. That’s the way I feel about COVID-19. We’re probably going to have vaccinations. It’s here, and it’s destructive. We need to take heed to the medical professions - wash your hands, wear your mask in order to survive. In prison, you don’t have social distancing. You can lie on your bunk and slap the man next to you. I saw people get sick and die. There were two to three deaths at Albemarle (Correctional Institute, where Ronnie was when he was freed). You’re overcrowded, it’s premeditated murder to keep people like me in there knowing I was innocent. Once you get behind those fences, you’re on your own. - Ronnie

Herrderqual1 karma

Hi Ronnie,

First I want to express my sorrow in hearing what you experienced, I am an ex-con and did nowhere near as much time as you (about 10 years). I must admit in my years in the system (granted I am/was in Canada) I never really believed anyone inside who claimed they were innocent and tended to not associate with them. Did you face much difficulty from other cons who didn't want to hear it or didn't believe you?

How many more hurdles did you face from the prison due to protesting your innocence?

Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you are safe, healthy and warm! Good luck in your battle I sincerely hope you get compensation even though it can never account for or replace what was taken from you.

cardinalpine8 karma

I’ve had supporters from the first day I was arrested. When you live in a close-knit community, where we went to the same high school, growing up, I had people supporting me. We grew up from the first grade to high school. When I got locked up, my brothers and sisters in the community knew it wasn’t me. I played three sports all the way through school, I never had any problems or was accused of being inappropriate with women. So when I went into the institutions, they knew who I was when I got there. There were a lot of brothers in there that were picking me up. Yes, you got a lot of people in saying they’re innocent “yeah, they lied on me.” But rest assured there are some inside the fences that are innocent, and they know the same officers lock people up when they throw fake chargers at them.

There are those in there that are innocent, in this corrupt criminal system. - Ronnie