A Washington man who has served five years in prison for a 1974 murder may be released soon on the basis of strong, new evidence obtained by the police that shows he did not commit the crime.
In an internal police department memorandum, one group of homicide officers has already formally said they now believe there is sufficient doubt" of the guilt of Bradford G. Brown, who has been in jail since April 11, 1974, for the murder of Rodney Frazier. The officers recommended that Brown be released immediately.
However, U.S. Attorney Carl S. Rauh has postpone a decision -- apparently with the agreement of other police officials and Brown's court-appointed attorney -- until the concludsion of an intense police FBI grand jury investigation of the shooting and conviction.
The police department memo. written on June 28 by Lt. Charles J. Hersey of the major violators section, said the new evidence in the Brown case we disclose when officers were interviewing a defendant in an unrelated case.
From there, Det. Robert J. Kanjian and others developed additional information to corroborate the informant's version of the 1974 murder and connect a new suspect "directly to certain specific evidence of the crime," the memo said.
The investigatots then met with prosecutors and recommended Brown's release immediately the memo said, but Rauh disagreed and ordered the further investigation.
Brown was convicted on Nov. 28, 1975, in connection with the Nov. 2, 1974, shooting of Frazier outside 160i W. St. Nw.
According to testimony at Brown's trial the key witness against him said that the person who did the shooting had come to the door of the W. Street house earlier that night and asked to see a man who lived there.
The suspect then left a name and telephone number on a slip of paper which was later lost by the police. A few minutes later, according to the witness, the suspect returned, forced himself inside the house, and point a gun at her.
After the witness slammed a bathroom door on the suspect's arm, he ran outside and shot Frazier.
She indentified Brown from photographs and in a lineup, saying, "I am sure of this guy's face, because I will never forget his face, because he was pointing the gun at my head."
Other witnesses who saw the suspect running from the scene said that he had a limp.
Brown, who had recently been shot and walked with a limp, testified at the trial that was at a birthday party for his 6-year-old niece when the shooting occurred about 9:30 p.m. He testified that he remembered the time well because he had help his mother bake a cake and had been allowed to lick the bowl.
He called witnesses to support his alibi and testified further that he was not familiar with the w. Streer address and did not know any of the government witnesses.
Brown was sentenced by D.C. Superior Court Judge Norma Johnson to 15-years to life. He had been in jail since his arrest.
He challenged his conviction on the basis of the lost evidence by the police department, but the conviction was affirmed by the D.C. Court of Appeals and the U.s. Supreme Court refused to consider it.
Rauh said yesterday that when the U.S. attorney's office was informated of the new evidence, Judge Johnson was immediately told. She appointed a Public Defender Service attorney to represent Brown at the U.S. attorney7s request, and Brown and his attorney have been kept informed of the progress of the investigation, Rauh said.
"If we conclude that Bradford Brown did not commit the crime, we will take the appropriate steps to see that he is released from prisons," Rauh said. He said such cases are rare, but added, "When they occur we have a clear responsibility to reinvestigate the matter fully."
Rauh said he is not sure the court has any authority to release Brown at this point as the police requested, since all the appeals are exhausted and technically it no londer has any jurisdiction over Brown's case.
He said that, even if the ultimate decision is to release Brown, it may have to be done through executive clemency or a pardon.