RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Gov. Roy Cooper has granted five pardons to men convicted of crimes they did not commit.
Ronnie Long, Teddy Isbell Sr., Damian Mills, Kenneth Kagonyera, and Larry Williams Jr. all received pardons Thursday afternoon.
Long was recently released from prison after serving 44 years of time for a rape he did not commit.
According to our newsgathering partners at the News & Observer, Long learned of the pardon while driving back to Durham on Thursday.
"Man, it's a blessing. God is good, all the time," Long told the News & Observer. "I'm overwhelmed. The fact is I can finally try get on with my life. I'm just overjoyed. My family's name has been exonerated. All I wanted was to clear my family's name."
The other four men had all served time for a murder and robbery that happened in Buncombe County in September 2000.
All five men had already been released from prison because of problems with their prosecution and evidence proving that they were not the culprits.
"We must continue to work to reform our justice system and acknowledge when people have been wrongly convicted. 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," Cooper said.
The pardons make it possible for the men to file a claim that could allow them to be compensated financially for being wrongly convicted of felonies.
These are the first five pardons Cooper has issued since taking office in 2017.