Clarence Brandley, who spent nine years on death row in Texas before his exoneration in 1990, passed away on September 2, 2018 at the age of 66. He came within six days of being executed for a crime he did not commit.
Brandley, who was African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury in Montgomery County in 1981 (an earlier trial, also involving an all-white jury, was declared a mistrial). He was sentenced to death for the 1980 rape and murder of 16-year-old Cheryl Dee Fergeson, a young white woman, despite the fact that no physical evidence tied him to the crime. His conviction rested primarily on the word of several white janitors he worked with at Conroe High School.
Brandley was one of the first individuals to be exonerated and released from death row in Texas. There have been 13 total death row exonerations here (163 nationwide). He never received compensation from the State for the decade of his life he lost to wrongful incarceration.
Clarence Brandley was one of the bravest men I’ve ever known. He never panicked and stood calm and strong as a rock in the face of almost certain knowledge that he very well might be executed for a crime he did not commit. He came very close to that fate; and faced it with a quiet dignity and courage that inspired all of us feverishly working to save him. His coolness under fire kept our hand steady on the till.
– Jim McCloskey, whose New Jersey-based Centurion Ministries worked with Clarence’s Houston attorneys to secure his exoneration. Read his full tribute here.
Service, Friday, September 14: 11am @New Loyalty Baptist Church, 6100 Hirsch Rd., Houston,TX