Ronnie Long, a man charged with the rape of a Concord woman in 1976, was denied the appeal of his case by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond in a 2-1 decision. He is expected to serve another 36 years in prison.

That means he won’t be eligible for release until he is 100 years old.

“Although Long shows the state court’s summary conclusion misstated the burden of proof for [Brady v. Maryland] claims, that error does not entitle Long to habeas relief,” the majority says in the decision.

The “error” in question is the exclusion of several pieces of evidence in the initial case that didn’t add up to a conviction: a sample of hair found at the crime scene didn’t match, no paint or carpet fibers matched what Long supposedly wore that night, different matches found in his car than those found in the house, and the semen found in the victim’s body that night did not match Long’s DNA. 

All of this information was kept from Long, the prosecutor, and the jury.

Majority judges Julius Richardson and Paul Niemeyer– both appointed by Republican presidents– concluded that because Long must show that each piece of evidence supporting the state court’s decision is “objectively wrong beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement,” and the evidence as provided would have virtually no impact on Long’s trial.

Judge Stephanie Thacker was the single dissenting opinion in the case, saying the decision was “offensive,” “ridiculous,” and “nonsensical,” since the state lied and withheld the evidence for years.

“For more than 43 years, [Long] has consistently maintained his innocence and continued to search for the truth,” Thacker said in her dissent. “In contrast, we arrive at this point as a result of the actions of the state — the slow, stubborn drip of undisclosed evidence that the state originally claimed did not exist.”

The INDY previously ran a cover story on Long months before it was granted a hearing in the Federal Court of Appeals. The Court began hearing oral arguments for his case in March.

Long’s attorneys told the Charlotte Observer that they would continue fighting the decision, saying there was “no doubt” that Long would one day be a free man.