Wrongfully imprisoned, then ripped off by their lawyer

The system has failed them at every turn:

A Florida lawyer defrauded, deceived and embezzled funds from two mentally disabled clients who were declared innocent after spending 31 years in prison, according to a complaint filed Wednesday by the North Carolina State Bar. Henry McCollum and his half-brother, Leon Brown, were exonerated in 2014 after serving decades in prison for the notorious rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. They received $750,000 each from the state in compensation.

The North Carolina State Bar charged that Orlando lawyer Patrick Megaro took excessive fees when he pocketed a third of each award despite having done virtually no work on their exonerations or compensation cases. The complaint lists 16 separate ethical violations. Megaro allegedly lied to federal and state judges, double-billed his clients and misused trust funds.

Not only does this case exemplify the mistreatment of African--Americans in our criminal justice system, it also exposes the disgusting fear-mongering Republicans thrive on during campaign season:

The two young defendants were prosecuted by Joe Freeman Britt, the 6-foot-6, Bible-quoting district attorney who was later profiled by “60 Minutes” as the country’s “deadliest D.A.” because he sought the death penalty so often.

For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. But Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in a dissent, noted that Mr. McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that “this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.”

And the GOP should have their asses sued for that. It might be a hard case to win for McCollum's (honest) lawyers, but it might make Republicans think twice before using mug-shots of black men in their campaign materials going forward. NC's newspapers have a bad habit of doing that too, and it needs to stop.

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