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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

10:56 p.m. ET

When Jimmy Kimmel and the producers of this year's Academy Awards had the idea to surprise a group of Hollywood tourists by having them crash the ceremony, they probably had no idea that someone like Gary from Chicago was going to show up.

Gary walked into the Dolby Theater snapping photos on his iPhone, and he continued to do so as he walked past the front row of A-listers, shaking hands with Ryan Gosling, kissing Nicole Kidman and Octavia Spencer's hands, and ignoring Emma Stone and her brother. He was also able to hang out with newly-minted Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, who kindly let him hold his statue. Gary was accompanied by his fiancée, Vicki, who told Kimmel her favorite actor is Denzel Washington. That was all Kimmel had to hear — he asked Washington to serve as the best man at their wedding, but Washington did one better, and pronounced them husband and wife. "He's Denzel, so it's legal," Kimmel quipped. Watch the video of The Gary Show below. Catherine Garcia

10:23 p.m. ET

With her Academy Award win for best supporting actress on Sunday night, Fences star Viola Davis became the first black performer, and the 23rd person overall, to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony for acting.

In 2015, Davis, the star of How to Get Away with Murder, won an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series, and she has received two Tonys — one in 2011 for King Hedley II and one in 2010 for the Broadway performance of Fences. While Whoopi Goldberg has an Oscar, Emmy, and Tony, her Tony Award came from producing the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Huffington Post reports. Other winners of the triple crown of acting include Helen Mirren, Al Pacino, and Ingrid Bergman. Catherine Garcia

9:34 p.m. ET

Without the calculations of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, the Apollo mission might not have happened, and the acclaimed movie Hidden Figures definitely would never have been made.

On Sunday, Johnson, 98, was honored by the Hidden Figures cast during the Academy Awards ceremony, where she received a standing ovation from the audience. Johnson's daughter, Katherine Moore, said her mother never bragged about her job, and also never backed down; while women normally weren't allowed to attend meetings at NASA, Johnson still sat in on them. "They never sent her out because nine times out of 10, she would have the answers," Moore told WNCN. Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and Moore said her hard work will inspire young girls for generations, teaching them "you can do anything you want to do." Catherine Garcia

8:53 p.m. ET
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Businessman Philip Bilden, President Trump's pick for Navy secretary, has withdrawn his name from consideration, citing ethics requirements.

In a statement on Sunday, Bilden said the position would cause "undue disruption" to his family's financial interests, and he would not be able to satisfy rules by the Office of Government Ethics. Bilden also said he still "fully supports" Trump's agenda. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement he will make a new recommendation to Trump soon. Earlier this month, Vincent Viola, a businessman and Trump's choice for Army secretary, dropped his bid for that position. Catherine Garcia

8:12 p.m. ET
Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

Judge Joseph Wapner, famous for presiding over The People's Court, died Sunday. He was 97.

Wapner's son, David, told The Associated Press his father, who was hospitalized a week ago, died in his sleep. Wapner was the original judge for The People's Court, staying with the program from 1981 until 1993 and inspiring the television judges who followed. A native of Los Angeles, Wapner was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1959 and the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1961. He retired in 1979, and was recommended for the show by a fellow judge. In 1986, Wapner told AP everything on The People's Court was real. "There's no script, no rehearsal, no retakes," he added. "Everything from beginning to end is like a real courtroom, and I personally consider each case as a trial." Catherine Garcia

1:00 p.m. ET
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

While many Americans tune in to Sunday night's Oscars ceremony, the Trump White House will host its first major social event: the 2017 Governors' Dinner. The black tie affair includes a receiving line, reception, and formal dinner with the First and Second Couples. It is timed to correspond with the National Governors Association's winter meeting in Washington each year.

"The Governors' Dinner is one of the most important social events held at the White House each year," said Laura Dowling, who was the chief White House floral designer for six of President Obama's eight years in office. "In terms of scope, style and planning requirements, it is just one step below a state dinner in organizational complexity."

The dinner is First Lady Melania Trump's first in her new role as White House hostess. "The first lady has put a lot of time into this event, welcoming our nation's governors to the capital," said White House Press Secretary of the evening's festivities. Bonnie Kristian

12:24 p.m. ET

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday offered a dismissive assessment of President Trump's first month in office in conversation with ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "What has the Trump administration done?" she asked. "From their inaugural address, where they talked about decay and carnage, they've done nothing except put Wall Street first, make America sick again, instill fear in our immigration population in our country, and make sure Russia maintains its grip on our foreign policy."

"I call him the deflector-in-chief," Pelosi added. "He has no jobs bill, so he has got to talk about the press. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about kids, transgender kids in school. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about immigrants and have a ban on Muslims coming to country." Watch an excerpt of her comments below. Bonnie Kristian

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