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Human Fallibility
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

Whatever You Say
4:00 p.m. ET
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Mark Cuban — billionaire, investor, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks — has weighed in on the 2016 election, and he's giving two thumbs up to Donald Trump.

According to Cuban, Trump is "probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long, long time," although apparently that has nothing at all to do with Trump's actual politics and everything to do with his bombastic personality.

"I don't care what [Trump's] actual positions are," Cuban clarified. "I don't care if he says the wrong thing. He says what's on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years."

More important than anything? Okay, if you say so!  Jeva Lange

Deflategate
3:09 p.m. ET
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The NFL issued a 20-page statement Tuesday announcing that it would uphold the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after he was found "at least generally aware" of team employees tampering with game balls during the 2015 playoffs. The NFL originally suspended the star signal-caller back in May after a league-commissioned report found "credible evidence" that he was involved in the scheme.

The NFL said its decision was based in part on the fact that Brady destroyed a cell phone he used the week of the Patriots' January 18 playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, The New York Times reports, during which it is alleged members of New England's staff deliberately deflated Patriots footballs to make them easier to grip. The cell phone apparently contained potentially incriminating evidence in the form of texts between Patriots staff members that seem to suggest Brady was aware of team employees adjusting the air pressure in footballs. Brady has consistently denied knowledge of tampering, and appealed his original suspension in June, which set the stage for the league's ruling Tuesday. Kimberly Alters

This just in
2:59 p.m. ET
Matthew Busch/Getty Images

Donald Trump's personal aide Michael Cohen claimed he was speaking during a moment of "shock and anger" when he told a Daily Beast reporter that "You cannot rape your spouse." Cohen made the comment while defending Trump against a Daily Beast exposé, which claimed that Trump's ex-wife Ivana had used the word "rape" to describe an incident that occurred between the couple while they were still married.

"Rarely am I surprised by the press, but the gall of this particular reporter to make such a reprehensible and false allegation against Mr. Trump truly stunned me," Cohen said in a statement. "In my moment of shock and anger, I made an inarticulate comment — which I do not believe — and which I apologize for entirely."

Ivana Trump has since added that The Daily Beast's story is "totally without merit," and that her comments were made during a time of "very high tension." Jeva Lange

This just in
2:53 p.m. ET
Joe Klamar/Getty Images

Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. intelligence analyst who was sentenced to life in prison in 1985 for passing classified documents to the Israeli government, will be released on parole on November 21, the United States Parole Commission announced Tuesday.

Pollard was scheduled to become eligible for parole in 30 years, granted the government did not show he was still a threat to national security. Pollard will be required to remain in the U.S. for the next five years following his November release from a North Carolina prison. Becca Stanek

zombie apocalypse
2:25 p.m. ET

Watching zombies gruesomely try to rip apart and devour the stars of AMC's The Walking Dead may not be appetizing, but if watching the show makes you thirsty, Terrapin Beer Co. is here to help.

The Athens, Georgia brewery is partnering with AMC to concoct the themed beverage, and they already spilled the flavor — a red IPA made with blood orange peel and, naturally, a "horrific amount" of hops.

There's no sale date for the specialty brew yet, but if the zombie apocalypse ever becomes a reality, here's hoping the undead like this beer more than human flesh. Stephanie Talmadge

(Courtesy photo)

The law of karma
1:54 p.m. ET
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Walter Palmer is a dentist at River Bluff Dental in Bloomington, Minnesota. But he's also allegedly the tourist who shot and killed Zimbabwe's most famous lion. After the news broke Tuesday morning that Palmer is allegedly responsible for the beloved lion's death, angry critics flooded Palmer's Yelp page with one-star reviews that had nothing to do with his dental work. Below, a sampling of the most witty and most brutal "reviews":

"He lured my teeth out of my mouth, shot them, and then told me I needed fillings!"

"You know what happens to your money at this place? The a--hole dentist spends it on a big, fancy vacation to Africa where he kills wild animals for fun."

"Scar's really appreciative of the fine work that Dr. Palmer did."

"He'll have to lure patients in using a dead smiling model tied to the bumper, shoot them with an arrow, wait 40 hours, kill them with a rifle, skin them and THEN start his procedure."

"I am not lion about this: I will not go to a dentist who shoots and kills amazing animals for pleasure on my funds. That is nothing to smile about."

"'You know the difference between a dentist and a sadist, don't you? Newer magazines.' -Seinfeld"

"I really love the way that he tore off his shirt, puffed out his chest, let out a brave cry and stopped a vicious man-eating lion from killing his entire family as they were quietly playing Yahtzee in the comforts of their own home."

"Customer service was ok, but shortly after my first appointment I caught Dr. Palmer hiding in the bushes in my front yard with a crossbow, stalking my Lhasa Apso. Would not recommend." [Yelp]

Becca Stanek
PC Police
1:37 p.m. ET

It has been frowned upon to use the term "illegal immigrant" for awhile now, with The Associated Press dropping the phrase from their stylebook back in 2013. However, the usage still persists — and that's where Twitterbots come in:

"That term, 'illegal immigrant,' hangs in the air, permeates the conversation in social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and ends up in daily conversations at work, at school, and at home," immigration activist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas told Fusion. Fusion has since created a Twitterbot, @DroptheIBot, which automatically tweets back at users who write "illegal immigrant" in their posts. Fusion explains:

[In] a modest effort to help America shed some of its historical baggage, we built a Twitter bot that replies to some of the people who tweet the words "illegal immigrant," letting them know that in 2015, the preferred terms are "undocumented immigrant" or "unauthorized immigrant." To avoid spamming people, the bot only runs once every ten minutes, and it never replies to the same user twice. [Fusion]

Unfortunately, many of recipients of @DroptheIBot's messages aren't pleased:

Good thing bots don't have feelings. Jeva Lange

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