Texas Death Row Conviction Overturned Due To Withholding Of Key Evidence

alfredbrownhcsoThe Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has thrown out a 2005 conviction and death sentence that week based on the misconduct of prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The court found that prosecutors withheld material evidence favorable to Brown’s case in a denial of a fair trial.

District Attorney Devon Anderson on Wednesday admitted that his office had discovered that key material had not been turned over to the defense.

charlesBrown was sentenced to death for the robbery of a check-cashing business on the April 5, 2003 that ended with the fatal shooting of veteran Houston Police Department officer Charles R. Clark and store clerk Alfredia Jones. Brown was 21 at the time and insisted that he had spent the day alone at his girlfriend’s house. He insisted that he called his girlfriend from her house after seeing television reports of the shooting. However, jurors never saw any business record of the call from the land line. In the spring of 2013, a Houston homicide detective found an old box of documents from Brown’s case while cleaning out his garage that contained a phone record showing the call was made exactly when Brown said he made it. It should have been disclosed under Brady v. Maryland. Prosecutors insist that it was simply inadvertently misplaced.

However, the case also involved allegations of grand jury abuse and coercing of witnesses by prosecutors. Ericka Dockery, Brown’s girlfriend, reportedly supported his account but a Harris County grand jury reportedly threatened to take away her children and lock her up if she didn’t change her story. She did change her story but was charged with perjury anyway and locked up for four months until she testified against Brown.

There is no mention of an examination this allegation as well as the nondisclosure for possible disciplinary actions in the case. The transcript of the extraordinary grand jury proceedings can be found here. The badgering of the witness is very unsettling.

The prosecutors will now decide whether the retry Brown.

Source: Chronicle

Kudos: Michael Blott

36 thoughts on “Texas Death Row Conviction Overturned Due To Withholding Of Key Evidence”

  1. WOW! I just skimmed through the grand jury record. That must have been illegal. Why did it take 11 years to make it to the papers? It was public record, right?

    Sue them all into the Stone Age, press criminal charges against the grand jury and the prosecutor, and ensure they are the ones who won’t be able to “get a job flipping burgers.”

  2. That could never happen in America because our criminal vengeance system is the best that big money, power and influence can buy.

    And guess what, for all practical purposes, they real crooks who are supposed to upholding the law, are immune from prosecution.

  3. Good point. Maybe there was negligence on the part of the defense. If your entire alibi hinged on a phone record, why didn’t he just get a copy? Was it barred from admission into evidence?

  4. Is that usual for evidence to be in a detective’s garage? I’m glad he turned it over, but what was it doing there in the first place?

    It is especially disturbing when a prosecutor is accused of wrongdoing like this, that culminated in a death sentence.

    Is Brown free, now, and exonerated, or will they re-try the case? In this case, I hope he brings one heck of a lawsuit. More than one person had to be guilty of misconduct for all this to happen.

  5. A Grand Jury forced someone to change their story? Does that happen? Are police/prosecutors going to be charged? Can Brown and the girlfriend sue Texas? Does the Bar review the defense attorney for possible disbarment? Why would they consider retrial when they have exculpatory evidence already? Does everybody that same police/prosecutor/defense involved get their case reviewed?

  6. Prosecutors aren’t merely criminals, they are the lowest form of criminals–wolves in sheep’s clothing, who interpret their “solemn” oath to mean “JUSTICE BE DAMMED. SEEK CONVICTIONS BY WHATEVER MEANS NECESSARY.”

    I’m sure there are rare exceptions, but that is a sad statement.

  7. Bailers, I agree. that part of my career was late 70’s/early 80’s. The Mike Nifong travesty not only exposed the corruption of prosecutors, but also of the education industry. It was a perfect storm for those kids. Thankfully, it ended better than the Perfect Storm book and flick. I have been in the bar in Gloucester where the flick was set, Lots of photos of the cast having a good time.

  8. Nick,
    Prosecutors such as the one that you describe seem to few and far between, and less frequent than in past times.

    Today’s DA seem to come from the Mike Nifong school of thought : win at all costs and protect that political campaign. There is much more an emphasis (looking in from the outside) on closing the case, getting the conviction, and worst of all, ensuring a close connection to the police department. We need more prosecutors who take seriously their role, and actually show they are there as a service to the community and to seek out the truth and justice.

  9. Really. Why wouldn’t the defense attorney at least confirm the phone call on his own. Public Defender? Didn’t have his/her heart in the case and likely thought his/her client was guilty so why bother? Very very disturbing.

    Everyone, even a total scumball, deserves to have adequate representation on the case in which they are involved and not be prejudged by BOTH the prosecution and the defense for other factors.

    Out of control law enforcement. Out of control legal teams. What next….just skip to the Gulags?

  10. Michaelb, The most likely answer to your question is that along w/ their being corrupt prosecutors, there are incompetent defense attorneys. Fatal combo!

  11. The longer I live, the more I appreciate the prosecutor for whom I worked in KC, as an investigator. She was relentless in making sure all prosecutors turned over exculpatory evidence. You were fired if you didn’t. There were the expected pitch battles between prosecutors and defense attorneys. But, there was that fundamental trust that can only come when the govt. is righteous. Stuff like this is one of the reasons I oppose the death penalty.

  12. In a just world the perpetrators of this crime that almost became a murder would be sent to jail for life, all of them. But in Texas, well people make mistakes, next case.

  13. Michaelb beat me to it. Why in the world would Mr Brown’s defense not get a copy of those phone records on their own instead of relying on the prosecution to provide it?

  14. Many prosecutors undermine the concept of a justice system.

    There have to be penalties to the prosecutors for subverting justice.

  15. Misplacing a document that could be regenerated an infinite number of times? It is common knowledge by the average person that phone records are available. I am imagining that the defense was told there was no call, as they would expect records. Why did they not want to see confirmation that no call was made that day?

  16. What the hell are the records doing in a person’s garage? Is that an official storage space?

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