- "Ain't no anger in my heart. I forgive those people," says Henry McCollum
- DNA evidence frees both him and his half-brother, Leon Brown
- The brothers had been convicted in the rape, murder of an 11-year-old child
McCollum, 50, was 19 at the time of his arrest. He was sentenced to death in 1984 and was North Carolina's longest-serving death row inmate. His half-brother, Brown, who is four years younger than McCollum, was initially sentenced to death as well but later had it reduced to life in prison.
"Ain't no anger in my heart. I forgive those people," McCollum told reporters, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.
"I don't like what they done to me and my brother because they took 30 years away from me for no reason, but I don't hate them," he said.
WRAL reported that McCollum left Central Prison, in Raleigh, while Brown left Maury Correctional Institution in Greene County, North Carolina.
The siblings were just teenagers when they were arrested in 1983 and charged with the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in Red Springs, about 30 miles southeast of Fayetteville in rural Robeson County.
Buie's body was found in an area of Red Springs known as something of a "lovers' lane," according to Joe Freeman Britt, the district attorney who prosecuted them in the '80s. The ground was littered with "beer cans, condoms and cigarettes," Britt said.
It was one of those cigarette butts that ultimately set the men free.
DNA found on a cigarette "matched another individual named Roscoe Artis, a convicted rapist and murderer who lived less than 100 yards from where the victim's body was found," said a statement from McCollum's and Brown's attorneys.
Artis is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison on a separate conviction. It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would bring charges against him for Buie's murder.