(CNN)North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper granted pardons Thursday to five men convicted of crimes they did not commit, including one freed this year after serving 44 years on a wrongful rape conviction.
NC governor pardons 5, including man wrongly imprisoned for 44 years
"We must continue to work to reform our justice system and acknowledge when people have been wrongly convicted," Cooper said in a press release. "I have carefully reviewed the facts in each of these cases and, while I cannot give these men back the time they served, I am granting them Pardons of Innocence in the hope that they might be better able to move forward in their lives."
Ronnie Wallace Long at age 64 was freed in August after decades in prison, CNN previously reported.
"It's been a long road," Long said then. "But it's over with. It's over with now."
Long, who is Black, was found guilty of rape and burglary in 1976 and sentenced to life in prison.
His conviction was vacated after the state of North Carolina filed a motion in federal court seeking to do so. A judge found that evidence from the crime scene did not match Long and was deliberately withheld by law enforcement.
Cooper also pardoned Teddy Lamont Isbell Sr., Damian Miguel Mills, Kenneth Manzi Kagonyera and Larry Jerome Williams Jr. They pleaded guilty to charges ranging from robbery to second-degree murder but were later found not guilty.
The pardons make them eligible to file a claim under a state law that allows compensation to persons wrongly convicted of felonies.