CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ronnie Long, a man who spent 44 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted, was the drummer for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
Due to COVID, Long was taped ahead of time hitting the “Keep Pounding” drum for Carolina before kickoff.
WNCN reports that he is still waiting for Gov. Roy Cooper to pardon him.
The Panthers won 0-20 against the Lions, marking their first win after five losses.
“They will never ever, never ever, ever lock me up again,” Long said.
Long was a 20-year-old Black man living in Concord when he was accused of raping a white woman.
Long’s attorney Jamie Lau wrote on Twitter in August, “The State of NC filed a motion with the Fourth Circuit this morning asking that it immediately issue the mandate in Ronnie Long’s case. The state said it will ask the district court to enter a writ vacating Ronnie’s conviction. In short, Ronnie Long is coming home!”
Long’s conviction was vacated in August, and he was released from the Albemarle Correctional Institution shortly after 5 p.m.
“So I got some great-nieces and nephews that I got to go spend some time with. I got some people that done died on this journey that I got to go spend some time with,” Long said.
Just a few weeks before Long’s conviction was overturned, his mother passed away.
“Hopefully, she watching down over me. Hopefully, she can tell my dad and sister that I made it out,” Long said.
It’s been a long journey and Long says he’s glad it’s over with.
“I always believed that no matter how difficult this thing had become, one day I would be standing where I’m standing, where I’m standing right now, and I ain’t ever gave up that hope,” Long said.
Long says he plans to spend his first night of freedom with his family while enjoying some mac and cheese, beef ribs, salad and lemonade.
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