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Black man convicted of raping white woman in 1976 has his appeal heard

Federal appeals court to rule on whether to exonerate a black man who has spent 44 years behind bars for rape of a white woman after his lawyers say investigators LIED about evidence

  • In 1976, Ronnie Long was sentenced to life behind bars over the rape and robbery of prominent North Carolina woman, Sarah Bost
  • Bost identified Long as her assailant, and died decades later still certain he was the man who raped her 
  • Long has always maintained his innocence, and his case is now being heard by the  Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • His lawyer says police concealed evidence taken from the crime scene after it failed to tie Long to the scene 

A federal appeals court will soon rule whether or not to exonerate a black man who has spent 44 years in prison after being convicted of raping a white woman. 

An all-white jury initially sentenced Ronnie Long to life behind bars over the rape and robbery of Sarah Bost in Concord, North Carolina back in 1976.  

Long, now 64, has always maintained his innocence, despite having his appeals repeatedly denied.  

In January, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia upheld his conviction in a 2-1 vote, despite conceding that police ‘corrupted’ the initial investigation.  

However, Long’s attorneys asked for the case to be heard by the full Fourth Circuit of 15 judges – who are now deliberating on the case. 

Long now hopes the current reckoning on racial injustice will help set him free. 

‘You got a young black man in 1976 in front of a white jury … for a sexual assault of a rich, wealthy, white female. I mean, what kind of justice is that?” Long told CBS’ 48 Hours program. 

A federal appeals court will soon rule whether or not to exonerate Ronnie Long, who has spent 44 years in prison after being convicted of raping a white woman. He is pictured at the time of his arrest in 1976

Long is pictured left in prison in 2007. He has spent 44 years in prison maintaining his innocence

A federal appeals court will soon rule whether or not to exonerate Ronnie Long, who has spent 44 years in prison after being convicted of raping a white woman. He is pictured at right at the time of his arrest in 1976. He is pictured left in prison in 2007 

Long was just 20 years old at the time of his conviction. 

Bost, 54, was the wealthy widow of a local textile executive and a prominent figure in Concord – which was still largely segregated at the time of the trial. 

Bost identified Long as the man who raped her – and died believing her attacker was behind bars. 

However, Long’s current attorney, Jamie Lau, believes she was mistaken. 

‘There’s very clear examples of people believing with high levels of confidence that they have identified the right attacker only to later be proven wrong,’ he told 48 Hours. 

Lau says police deliberately concealed evidence that would have had Long walk free. 

Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene, but that information was never shared with jurors or Long’s lawyers at the time.

The prints and the hair did not match Long’s. 

‘Not only did they hide evidence, but then they took the stand while under oath and lied about the evidence, ‘Lau stated. 

Crime scene photos are pictured. Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene. None of the evidence was match with Long

Crime scene photos are pictured. Investigators collected 43 fingerprints and a hair from the rape scene. None of the evidence was match with Long 

Long's current attorney, Jamie Lau (pictured), told 48 Hours that police lied to jurors about evidence they obtained at the crime scene

Long’s current attorney, Jamie Lau (pictured), told 48 Hours that police lied to jurors about evidence they obtained at the crime scene 

Detectives pointed to the fact that was busted with a black jacket in his vehicle – an item of clothing that Bost said her attacker was wearing. 

However, Long’s attorney, Jamie Lau, told 48 Hours: ‘It was a ubiquitous piece of clothing for black males at the time, in part because the movie ‘Shaft’ had come out a few years prior.’

Long’s family say they are holding out hope that the 15 jurors will exonerate him. 

However, the damage has already been done. 

Long’s son, Carlos Spears, was just three years old when he dad was convicted. He is now 47.  

‘I want the world to know that Cabarrus County locked up an innocent man and they need to go ahead and give him justice,’ Spears told 48 Hours. 

The decision is pending.  

Long's son, Carlos Spears, was just three years old when he dad was convicted. He is now 47. He is pictured speaking with 48 Hours

Long’s son, Carlos Spears, was just three years old when he dad was convicted. He is now 47. He is pictured speaking with 48 Hours 

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