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
A Florida woman who was being held at knifepoint by her boyfriend used the Pizza Hut app to save herself.
Ethan Nickerson, Cheryl Treadway's boyfriend, took her phone away, but Treadway convinced him to let her order a pizza. In the app's "special instructions" section, Treadway wrote "911hostage help!" and "Please help! Get 911 to me."
When the restaurant received the order, a cook told the manager about the instructions. The Pizza Hut employees called 911, and the the Highland County Sheriff's Office sent a team of deputies to remove Treadway and her children from the house.
Florida's WFLA reports that Nickerson "may have been high on meth" during the situation. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a weapon without intent to kill, battery, false imprisonment, and obstructing justice by depriving communication to law enforcement. Meghan DeMaria
Nobody has ever gone broke by giving the people what they want. That's the clear guiding principle behind the new trailer for Magic Mike XXL, which elides over much of the ordinary business of movie trailers — like, say establishing the plot — in favor of two straight minutes of beefy, hunky dudes getting down:
The trailer does spare a brief moment to set up the basic premise of Magic Mike XXL, as the dudes head to Myrtle Beach to compete at an unspecified dancing convention. Beyond that, however, it's all style, as male strippers played by Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and more take the stage to show off what they can do.
Magic Mike XXL hits theaters on July 1. Scott Meslow
I haven't confirmed this with my editors or anything, but I'm pretty positive that if I accidentally confined someone to a room for almost a week without any food or water, I wouldn't be contributing here at The Week anymore.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), however, has no such qualms. In 2012, the agency arrested Daniel Chong, a student at University of California-San Diego, when he was caught smoking pot. They handcuffed him in an unlit holding cell and promptly forgot about him for five days, leaving him to drink his own urine to survive.
In March, the DEA finally punished the six agents responsible, subjecting them to nothing more serious than a short suspension. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has called the DEA's decision "unacceptable," and is calling on Congress to pursue reform. Bonnie Kristian
An analysis of Supreme Court decisions dating back to the court's earliest cases in the 1700s found that with time SCOTUS has become increasingly accessible — but also increasingly long-winded and grouchy. While decisions are easier to read than they used to be, they've ballooned in length — think 4,000 words for Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and more than 10 times that for Citizens United (2010) — and use an increasingly unfriendly vocabulary.
And when we look at the language choices of specific justices, the current court lineup is historically unpleasant (at least on paper): Sitting Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Antonin Scalia all rank in the top ten unfriendliest decision writers in SCOTUS history. Their colleagues were either more temperate (Roberts and Ginsburg) or too new to the court to be included in the study (Kagan and Sotomayor). Bonnie Kristian
Former Speaker of the House Jim Wright died on Wednesday at the age of 92. Wright served for more than three decades in Congress after winning a House seat in Texas in 1954, ultimately rising to become Speaker in 1987. Yet Wright's tenure at the House's helm was brief. Just two years later, amid an ethics investigation into 69 alleged financial improprieties, he became the first Speaker to resign under fire. Jon Terbush
The 3,000-year-old archaeological site at Tjaru was already pretty intriguing — it was home to an ancient fortress and was rumored to have hosted exiled criminals — but a new discovery makes Tjaru even more interesting. Archaeologists at the site have found the camp of an ancient Egyptian army, along with mass graves and the skeletal remains of lost soldiers.
Researchers believe Tjaru was a "starting point" for Egyptian military campaigns during the New Kingdom period, from 1580 B.C.E. to 1080 B.C.E., explains The Cairo Post. The camp and graves will help historians better understand the ancient Egyptians' military strategies and architecture.
— ancient-origins (@ancientorigins) May 5, 2015
In addition to the camp and grave sites, the archaeologists discovered storage sites that bore the seal of Pharoah Tuthmose III, who "created the largest empire Egypt had ever seen," according to Ancient Origins. The artifacts found at the site will be displayed at a local museum. Meghan DeMaria
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday called on the Justice Department to conduct a full "pattern and practice" review of the city's police department to probe whether officers routinely violate citizens' civil rights.
"At the end of this process, I will hold those accountable if changes are not made," Rawlings-Blake said, adding that the department would have body cameras on officers "before the year ends."
The announcement came one day after new Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Baltimore. The DOJ was already investigating the death of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died in police custody and whose death sparked widespread protests that at times turned violent. Jon Terbush