On August 24, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, reinstated defendant Ronnie Long’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging his rape conviction more than four decades earlier. Proskauer filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Mr. Long on behalf of some forty leading scholars who specialize in forensic science, emphasizing the grave impact of the prosecution’s repeated failures to disclose all the forensic evidence in the case. The Fourth Circuit agreed, and now Mr. Long is expected to be released imminently.
Over forty years ago, Mr. Long was accused of committing a rape and burglary that he has consistently maintained he did not commit. Relying heavily on the victim’s identification testimony, and the asserted “honesty” of law enforcement who investigated the crime, a jury found Mr. Long guilty of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary. He was sentenced to life in prison, and his conviction was upheld on appeal. As the result of continued litigation over the span of many decades, however, a steady stream of suppressed evidence concerning the crime, neither disclosed to the defense nor presented to the jury, came to light. It included lab-test results demonstrating that Mr. Long was not linked to the crime scene; medical evidence taken from the victim that unaccountably went missing; and, most recently, 43 latent fingerprints lifted from the scene, none of which matched Mr. Long. It also became plain that the detectives who investigated the crime lied at trial about the evidence suppression.