Two US men who spent three decades in prison for rape and murder, one of them on death row, have been released after DNA evidence proved their innocence.
Mentally disabled half brothers Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, were convicted in 1984 of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in North Carolina.
Recently analysed DNA evidence from the crime scene implicated another man, who is in prison for a similar crime.
A county judge ordered the immediate release of the brothers.
Tuesday’s court judgement followed an investigation by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, which tested DNA evidence found at the scene.
The commission found that none could be traced to Mr. McCollum or Mr Brown.
“This case is a tragedy which has profoundly affected not only the lives of the people involved, but which profoundly affects our system of justice in North Carolina,” said lawyer for Mr Brown, Ann Kirby.
The near-naked body of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie was found in 1983 near the town of Red Springs, North Carolina. She had been raped before being killed.
Mr. McCollum and Mr Brown, who were 19 and 15 at the time, were picked up by police a few weeks later. There was no physical evidence connecting them to the crime.
Mr. McCollum confessed after five hours of intense questioning, without a lawyer or family member present.