Alfred Dewayne Brown spent nearly a decade on Texas’ death row before his conviction was thrown out by the courts. But despite being freed in 2015, he didn’t qualify for the state payout given to those wrongfully convicted because he was never declared “actually innocent.”
On Friday, that changed. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg held a press conference announcing that an outside attorney she had assigned to investigate the case had found Brown innocent, paving the way for Brown to receive $80,000 for each year he was wrongfully in prison plus smaller monthly payments over the course of his life. The attorney, John Raley, is well known for his years-long fight to free Texas’ Michael Morton from a 25-year-long wrongful sentence in his wife’s murder, a case that led to new legislation requiring prosecutors to share their complete investigation with defense attorneys.
“Now there is no evidence sufficient for a reasonable juror to find that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the legal definition of innocence, and Alfred Dewayne Brown is innocent,” Raley said at the press conference.
Brown was released from prison nearly four years ago after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out his conviction and death sentence in the 2003 murder of a Houston police officer. Phone records found in the prosecution’s possession but not shared with the defense at trial supported Brown’s alibi that he was at his girlfriend’s house during the crime. But the court tossed the case because of the prosecution’s violation, not because of Brown’s innocence.
After the conviction was tossed, then-District Attorney Devon Anderson dismissed the case completely, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to retry Brown for capital murder. Two other men, including one on death row, had also been convicted in the officer’s murder.
But the Texas Comptroller, which handles payments for wrongful incarcerations, denied Brown’s request for payment after his case was dismissed. Texas statute says a person qualifies for compensation if he is pardoned; if an appellate court finds him legally innocent; or if an appellate court tosses the conviction, the charges are dismissed and the prosecutor says in an affidavit she “believes that the defendant is actually innocent of the crime for which the person was sentenced.”
Until Friday, Brown was missing the last piece, the prosecution’s declaration of innocence. Ogg said at the conference that she accepted Raley’s recommendations that Brown is innocent.
But not everyone believes in Brown’s innocence. Joe Gamaldi, the president of the Houston police officer’s union, told The Texas Tribune in January that Brown couldn’t touch the high standard of actual innocence “with a 10 foot pole” and that he remains the main suspect. Saying he knew what was in Raley’s pending report, Gamaldi said Ogg went through Raley to “give herself cover from the political fallout.”
Image: Alfred Dewayne Brown hugs his sister Connie Brown on the day of his release, June 8, 2015.