The exoneration of two North Carolina brothers falsely convicted of murder highlights the need for qualified immunity (QI) reform. In 1983, brothers Leon Brown and Henry McCollum were sent to prison for a gruesome crime they didn’t commit. In 2014, thanks to DNA evidence, they were exonerated. And in 2021, a federal jury awarded the brothers $75 million in compensation.
As CNN notes, “The award is significant because not all exonerees in the United States are guaranteed compensation.” One of the obstacles to victim compensation is qualified immunity.
After their release from prison, Brown and McCollum sued the officials who wrongfully convicted them. Their attorneys argued that bad cops forced the brothers to give false confessions. The courts sided with Leon Brown and Henry McCollum.
The case of these two brothers highlights how police misconduct plays a part in wrongful convictions. Ultimately, Leon Brown and Henry McCollum got justice. But, as CNN notes, this is the exception, not the rule. More often than not, bad cops go unpunished. When it comes to civil rights violations, it remains “very difficult” to prove misconduct.
Innocence Project Speaks Out on Qualified Immunity
This is where the Innocence Project comes in. The nonprofit advocates for stronger compensation laws for the victims like Leon Brown and Henry McCollum. And they’re committed to ending qualified immunity. The Innocence Project is a coalition partner of the Campaign to End Qualified Immunity.
In the CNN article, Rebecca Brown discusses the importance of ending qualified immunity. Brown is the director of policy for the Innocence Project. She tells CNN that, in order for justice to prevail, police culture must change. Officers who wrongfully convict innocent people break the law. They need to face accountability. “Qualified immunity, eliminating it, is not just a reform about restitution, but it is also about incentivizing change in the police agency,” Brown says.
Read the entire article here.