Late in the day on Friday, March 2, 2018, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the discovery of an email proving that prosecutors knowingly withheld critical evidence in the death penalty case of Alfred Dewayne Brown – evidence that supported Brown’s consistent claim of innocence. Brown was released from death row in June 2015 after the District Attorney’s Office – then under the leadership of Devon Anderson – dropped the charges against him after determining there was insufficient evidence to support another conviction. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had overturned Brown’s conviction in 2014 due to prosecutorial misconduct; at the time, the misconduct was deemed by prosecutors and defense attorneys as “inadvertent.”
Brown spent a decade on death row for the murders of Houston Police Officer Charles R. Clark and store clerk Alfredia Jones at a check-cashing business in 2003. He is the 13th person to be released and exonerated from death row in Texas.
As reported by the Houston Press, “Ogg says that [the] new evidence shows that former Harris County prosecutor Dan Rizzo knew about the existence of phone records that would corroborate Alfred DeWayne Brown’s alibi, but failed to provide them to defense counsel or the jury.”
In November 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Brown’s conviction and death sentence after finding the Harris County District Attorney’s Office had withheld material evidence favorable to Brown’s case, specifically, a record of a phone call corroborating his claim that he was at his girlfriend’s apartment the morning the murders took place. At his trial, Brown’s attorneys presented no evidence of his alibi. His girlfriend changed her own testimony after she was threatened with prosecution by a grand jury.
In 2013, a homicide detective found a box of phone records in his garage; among the records was a file indicating Brown made the call exactly when he asserted. That file was never shared with Brown’s defense counsel. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office agreed that relief should be granted.
Brown was released from prison on June 8, 2015 but was not deemed “actually innocent.” Subsequently, on April 7, 2016, Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar rejected Brown’s application for $2 million in compensation for the decade he spent on death row, finding that his claim did not meet the mandatory requirements under Texas law (“Comptroller: Former death row inmate not eligible for exoneration funds,” Houston Chronicle, April 7, 2016).
Brown’s attorneys then filed a civil lawsuit against the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, as well as the prosecutor and the police officer who handled the murder case, accusing them of hiding and falsifying evidence and violating his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial.
The new email came to light as a result of the lawsuit and shows that the prosecutor at the time, Dan Rizzo, was aware of evidence that could have exculpated Brown.
According to The Root, in light of the evidence, Brown’s lawyers want DA Ogg to formally declare him “actually innocent,” which would pave the way towards compensation from the state for his wrongful conviction.
Read more from the Houston Press, including the statement released by DA Ogg, and from The Root.