Warkworth man campaigns for US justice

Once a fortnight, Owen Mansill sends a card to American convict he has never met.

Every couple of weeks, Warkworth agri-business consultant Owen Mansill sends a postcard to a man languishing in a US prison for 43 years.

Ronnie Long was convicted of rape when he was 20 and has been incarcerated ever since.

But Owen, along with campaigners elsewhere around the world, are convinced Ronnie is innocent.

Owen got interested in the case after hearing about it from Joel Harlow – a Texan bank manager.

Owen first met Joel while setting up a New Zealand-style, grass-based dairy farm in north-east Texas.

Joel provided loans to fund the farming venture and he and Owen became firm friends.

When Owen returned to New Zealand, he learned about Ronnie Long from Joel’s Facebook posts.

When Joel first read about the case, something about it convinced him that it required further investigation.

He drove 1000 miles to North Carolina and began researching the case in a local library.

He discovered that Ronnie did not match the description of the complainant (who has since died), there was no forensic evidence linking Ronnie to the crime and the detective in charge of the case was subsequently imprisoned for perjury.

Concerns that a miscarriage of justice had occurred led to the establishment of the Free Ronnie Long Facebook Page (facebook.com/FreeRonnieLong) to advocate for his release.

Inspired by Joel’s passion, Owen began sending regular postcards to Ronnie, unsure if they would reach him, but determined to give Ronnie any encouragement that he could.

Joel has since contacted Owen saying Ronnie is indeed receiving the cards and is overwhelmed that somebody on the other side of the world cares for him.

Owen puts his concern down to his passion for justice.

“This man is a good man and has had his freedom taken away for 43 years. Even if he had committed the crime, where else would he be put away for that long?” he asks.

Owen hopes others in Warkworth will visit the Free Ronnie Long Facebook Page and take an interest in Ronnie being released.

“I’d love to say that in this town – thousands of miles away – people believe in justice,” he says.

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