RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two men are planning to ask for pardons after they were freed this week from a North Carolina prison following the discovery of evidence that they didn't kill a young girl 30 years ago.

Vernetta Alston, an attorney for Henry McCollum, says lawyers representing him and his half brother, Leon Brown, are preparing petitions for a pardon of innocence and plan to file within the next couple of weeks. McCollum was freed from death row after three decades, while Brown had been serving a life sentence.

"We do plan on filing a petition with the governor's office soon," Alston said.

If the men are pardoned, they would be eligible to claim compensation under a state law that allows up to $750,000 for people wrongly convicted of felonies.

Geraldine Brown, sister of Leon Brown, celebrates outside a Robeson County courtroom where her brothers were declared innocent of the rape and murder of an
Geraldine Brown, sister of Leon Brown, celebrates outside a Robeson County courtroom where her brothers were declared innocent of the rape and murder of an 11 year old girl in 1983, Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014 in Lumberton, N.C. On Tuesday, a judge overturned the convictions of Henry McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, in the 1983 rape and murder of the 11-year-old girl, citing the new evidence that they are innocent. The ruling is the latest twist in a notorious legal case against the men that began with what defense attorneys said were coerced confessions from two scared teenagers with low IQs. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chuck Liddy) (Chuck Liddy/AP)

Gov. Pat McCrory in a statement said he was happy their convictions were overturned and that his office has a process for reviewing pardon applications.

"If they apply, we will begin reviewing their applications as soon as they are received," McCrory said.

But such compensation hardly makes up for the long years the half brothers spent in prison, one of McCollum's attorneys, Kenneth J. Rose, wrote in a column published Thursday in The Washington Post.

"Finally proving Henry and Leon's innocence was a great victory, but what I cannot forget is that this case is, above all, a tragedy," Rose wrote in the column, titled "I just freed an innocent man from death row. And I'm still furious."


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"Two innocent men — both intellectually disabled — spent three decades of their lives being, essentially, tortured by the state of North Carolina," Rose wrote.

On Tuesday, a judge vacated convictions against Brown and McCollum and ordered their release, citing new DNA evidence that indicates another man killed and raped 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983.

In a 1987 photo, District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt sits in his office during an interview in Lumberton, N.C. Fifty-year-old Henry McCollum and
In a 1987 photo, District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt sits in his office during an interview in Lumberton, N.C. Fifty-year-old Henry McCollum and 46-year-old Leon Brown have spent 30 years in prison for the killing and rape of an 11-year-old North Carolina girl. On Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, lawyers for the Center for Death Penalty Litigation are asking that the men be set free based on new DNA evidence. Britt has acknowledged that the new DNA evidence is consistent with this other man. He said evidence from the original trial is being re-tested. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Jim Bounds) (Jim Bounds/AP)

The judge and local prosecutor acknowledged there was no physical evidence linking brown and McCollum to the crime. Defense attorneys say the two were coerced into confessing as scared teenagers with low IQs.

Robeson County District Attorney Johnson Britt, who didn't prosecute the men, said the new evidence negated what was presented at trial. The prosecutor has said he's considering whether to reopen the case and charge the other man.

"Now, with Henry finally free, some people expect me to feel satisfied, or even happy," Rose wrote in his column. "The truth is: I am angry.

"I am angry that we live in a world where two disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light.

In a June 10, 1987 photo, Leon Brown sits in the day room of his Death Row cell block in Raleigh, NC’s Central Prison. Brown and his half brother
In a June 10, 1987 photo, Leon Brown sits in the day room of his Death Row cell block in Raleigh, NC's Central Prison. Brown and his half brother Henry McCollum have spent more than three decades in prison for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in 1983. On Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, lawyers for 46-year-old Brown and 50-year-old McCollum will ask for their release, saying DNA analysis of a cigarette butt found at the crime scene in Robeson County link it to a man serving a life sentence for a similar rape and killing that took place a month later. The Center for Death Penalty Litigation says that man was the real killer of Sabrina Buie in 1983.(AP Photo/The News & Observer, Scott Sharpe) MANDATORY CREDIT, TV AND TV WEBSITES OUT (Scott Sharpe/AP)

"As I lie awake at night, mulling over the maddening details of this case, I wonder: How many more Henry McCollums are still imprisoned, waiting for help that will never come?"