Bradford G. Brown, 32, stepped back into freedom yesterday, five years after a jury here rejected his testimony, convicted him of second-degree murder and a judge ordered him to prison.
Brown was a free man again because a Washington police detective -- and subsequently other police investigators and court personnel -- found evidence that Brown could not have committed the crime of which he was convicted.
Last night, Brown enjoyed a family reunion at his home in Northeast, beginning already to forget his conviction in the slaying of Rodney Frazier in 1974, and his sentencing by D.C. Superior Court Judge Norma Johnson to 15 years to life in prison.
Brown had testified at his trial that at the time of the slaying, he was at a birthday party for which he had helped his mother bake a cake. But a government witness indentified him from photographs and in a lineup as the man who had committed the murder.
Late last month, though, the new evidence was found that cleared Brown. The nature of his evidence was not disclosed last night by police.
"At first I was very argry and very bitter over the idea that even though I was innocent, I was sent to prison, possibly for life," Brown said yesterday as he sipped a soft drink shortly after his release.
"But over the years, I suppose I lost the anger. I spent most of my time in the prison law library searching for some case that might be the key to helping me to get my freedom. I always held out the hope that someone would help me, and that sooner or later I would be able to prove my innocence."
But Brown said that sometimes, in the boredom of his life in the Lorton Reformatory, he cried when he considered the possibility that he might die in prison.
But all this ended yesterday after a brief hearing before Johnson in which Brown's Public Defender Service attorney James Bensfield asked for a hearing at which the charge would be dropped, and U.S. Attorney Carl S. Rauh agreed to Brown's immediate release.
Two hours after the courtroom hearing, Brwon -- still wearing the blue denim shirt and jeans issued to him at Lorton -- walked out of the front entrance of D.C. Superior Court. He stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. "It feels good to breathe air as a free man," he said.
When Brown arrived at his mother's home at 1842 Providence St. NE, he was met by a crowd of relatives and friends who greeted him with cheers. A sister, who had not expected her brother's release, hugged and kissed him when he stepped from behind a door and shouted, "Surpirse!"
During his stay at Lorton, Brown said he learned how to sew from two other inmates. His goal now is to open a shop to make tailored clothing. "I don't know where the money is going to come from, but I believe someone will help me," Brown said.
"Before I was sent to prison, I lived a street life," Brown added. "Now I see life as being more valuable than I saw it before. Now I want to become a businessman -- open a little tailor shop and become a part of society."
The events leading to Brown's release yesterday began on Jun 28 when police issued an internal memorandum which said that new evidence in the Brown case was disclosed when officers were interviewing a defendant in an unrelated case.
Det. Robert J. Kanjian, assigned to Superior Court and others working with him, developed further information in the case and identified another person as suspect in the case, and developed proof that Brown could not have committed the crime. CAPTION: Picture, Bradford Brown leaves Lorton after new evidence clears him of murder. By Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post