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September 3, 2014

On Tuesday, a North Carolina Superior Court judge exonerated two half-brothers, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, of the 1983 rape and brutal murder of an 11-year-old girl, Sabrina Buie. Judge Douglas Sasser vacated the convictions and McCollum's death sentence, and ordered the two men released immediately. Prison officials returned McCollum and Brown to jail, where they are expected to be processed and released on Wednesday, after nearly 31 years behind bars.

McCollum and Brown, both of whom have IQs in the 50s and 60s, were convicted mainly on the basis of signed confessions they both said were untrue and coerced at their trials. They were cleared thanks to DNA testing of evidence. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission did find DNA evidence on a cigarette butt near the crime scene, but it belonged to Roscoe Artis, a convicted sexual predator who lived a block from where Buie's body was found. About a month after Buie's murder, Artis confessed to raping and murdering an 18-year-old, a crime for which he is serving a life sentence.

The murder of Sabrina Buie was so notorious that when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in 1994, The New York Times recalls, Justice Antonin Scalia used the occasion to cite McCollum as reason to use lethal injection. (Justice Harry Blackmun argued that because McCollum had the intellect of a 9-year-old, "the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.")

The prosecutor who secured McCollum and Brown's convictions, former Robeson Count District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt — who is "listed in Guinness World Records as the 'deadliest prosecutor,' responsible for the most death sentences in the United States," the Raleigh News & Observer notes — stands by his case and said his successor "just threw up his hands and capitulated" by not arguing for McCollum's continued incarceration.

Before his conviction was thrown out, McCollum spoke with the News & Observer about the future. "A long time ago, I wanted to find me a good wife, I wanted to raise a family, I wanted to have my own business and everything," he said. "I never got a chance to realize those dreams. Now I believe that God is going to bless me to get back out there." Since McCollum and Brown have spent their entire adult lives in prison, and given their mental impairments, they will almost certainly "face a bewildering and difficult time" out of jail, the News & Observer notes. You can watch McCollum's conversation with the newspaper below. --Peter Weber

1:10 p.m. ET

In an article published Saturday, The New York Times reports that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton picked Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate to attract more white men to her campaign:

Ultimately, Mrs. Clinton, who told PBS that she was "afflicted with the responsibility gene," avoided taking a chance with a less experienced vice-presidential candidate and declined to push the historic nature of her candidacy by adding another woman or a minority to the ticket.

Instead, the campaign, which had become concerned about its deficit with white men, focused on Mr. Kaine and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and looked more closely at Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. [The New York Times]

Among white men, Republican Donald Trump leads Clinton 56 to 25 percent, according to a national Quinnipiac survey from the end of June.

Kaine has been described as "boring" following his addition to the ticket, a trope those close to the candidate say is unfair. "I just hate it," Beau Cribbs, Kaine’s former body man, told BuzzFeed News. "I think boring is a code for white and male, frankly." Bonnie Kristian

12:47 p.m. ET
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday voted 4-1 to strike down a 2010 state law requiring doctors to notify the parents of girls under the age of 18 if their daughters seek an abortion.

The ruling is a win for Planned Parenthood and Alaskan abortion rights advocates, who made the case that the mandate was a violation of teens' privacy and a danger to girls living in abusive situations. In the majority opinion, Justice Daniel Winfree agreed, writing that the law posed a "discriminatory barrier to those minors seeking to exercise their fundamental privacy right to terminate a pregnancy."

Justice Craig Stowers, the sole dissenter, argued that where a minor is concerned, the state and her parents retain a "legitimate interest" in the situation and, in the parents' case, should be afforded the opportunity to discuss with their child the ramifications of the decision to abort. Parents are required to be notified and give consent where most other significant medical procedures are concerned. Bonnie Kristian

12:00 p.m. ET

Some 3.7 million Syrian children have been born into war in their native land, but activists are using Pokémon Go to draw international attention to their plight.

The Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office (RFS) is sharing images of Syrian kids surrounded by chaos and violence — plus Pokémon. The images allude to the fact that you have to physically go to a new location to capture each monster, urging viewers to likewise come help.

"People on social media talk about Pokémon all the time, so I created these images to draw attention to suffering during the war and what Syrians are really searching for," said Saif Aldeen Tahhan, a graphic designer who has shared mockups of Syria Go, in which users would search for basic necessities like food and shelter instead of fantastic creatures. "I can tell you, the Syrian people are not looking for Pokémon." Bonnie Kristian

11:38 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her new running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, held a rally at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami Saturday, marking their official debut as a complete 2016 ticket.

Kaine is perceived as a cautious choice whom Clinton hopes will boost her fortunes among moderate Democrats and independents who might otherwise be attracted to Republican Donald Trump. Florida Democrats traveled from around the state to attend the campaign event, lining up by the hundreds outside the doors hours before it began.

"Sen. Tim Kaine is everything Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not," Clinton said in her introduction when the pair came on stage. "He is qualified to step into this job and lead on Day 1. And he is a progressive who likes to get things done."

Watch a live stream of the rally below. Bonnie Kristian

This post has been updated throughout.

11:00 a.m. ET

Former Daily Show correspondent and host of TBS' Full Frontal Samantha Bee sent out a series of cheeky tweets Friday night mocking presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is widely perceived as a cautious choice, to put it nicely — which Bee did not. Take a look at a few of her tweets below, and see the rest on her feed. Bonnie Kristian

10:50 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In just the 11th veto of his time in office, President Obama on Friday rejected the "Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2016," a bill which would have capped former presidents' expense accounts at $200,000 a year and phased out presidential pensions for former executives who independently make at least $400,000 annually.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the veto was issued out of concern that the bill would "immediately terminate salaries and all benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former presidents" and require the government to "immediately terminate leases, and remove furniture."

Earnest indicated that Obama, who will himself be an ex-president in six months, would consider signing a revised version of the legislation. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
Massoud Hossaini/Associated Press

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing at a protest in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on Saturday. At least 80 people were killed in the attack and about 230 more were wounded, officials said.

The demonstration was primarily composed of the Shia Hazara minority; ISIS represents an extreme variant of Afghanistan's Sunni majority. The two sects have historically not experienced internecine strife in Afghanistan as they have elsewhere in the Mideast, including Iraq.

The Taliban condemned the incident, calling it an "act of making enmity among Afghan ethnicities" and denying all participation. If ISIS involvement is confirmed, it will be the first time the group has made a major strike in Afghanistan outside Nangarhar province.

This post has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian

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