Published on: Wednesday, March 15, 2023

In 1983, North Carolina sheriffs interrogate Henry McCollum, a 19-year-old with an IQ of 56, about the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. After hours of interrogation, he confesses and implicates four others, including his 15-year-old half-brother, Leon Brown, who has an IQ of 55. Following a similar interrogation in which he's threatened with the gas chamber, Leon also confesses. They're convicted, sentenced to death and life respectively, and serve 31 years in prison before DNA evidence conclusively proves their innocense and that the true perpetrator was a guy who lived near the field where the body was found, who had previously been tried for the rape and murder of a young girl, and who was actively being investigated for another rape and murder of a young girl that occurred shortly after Henry and Leon were arrested—none of which was made known to defense counsel.

The brothers: sued for their wrongful incarceration. Jury: yes, we agree! Here's $111 mil in damages. Fourth Circuit: No way. Too much. Remanded with instructions to slash judgment by half (reduce damages award to remove prejudgment interest and offset earlier settlements).

The case is Gilliam v. Allen, 21-2313 (4th Cir. Mar. 8, 2023).