Texas death row inmate Alfred Dewayne Brown was released from prison Monday. He spent 10 years on death row. A huge portion of the credit for his release goes to Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg, who won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the case.
Brown had an alibi for the crime for which he was convicted — an armed robbery that resulted in the death of a police officer. Brown said he was staying at his girlfriend’s apartment at the time of the robbery. But after a browbeating from a Houston cop who inexplicably served as foreman on the grand jury that indicted Brown, the woman changed her testimony. Grand jury transcripts would later show that during her testimony, the cop/foreman threatened to indict Brown’s girlfriend for perjury and threatened to take away her children. She was eventually jailed for seven weeks, then released when she changed her testimony to contradict Brown’s alibi. Without his girlfriend’s testimony, Brown was convicted and sentenced to death.
Seven years later, Brown’s attorneys discovered phone records confirming that Brown had called his girlfriend at her job from her apartment around the time of the murder. Not only were those records never given to Brown’s defense attorneys, the records were found in the garage of a Houston homicide detective.
As I reported here at The Watch last summer, leaked grand jury documents later showed that the same cop who threatened Brown’s girlfriend had served on at least nine other grand juries. This was thanks to a grand jury selection system known as the “key man” system, which critics say allows judges and prosecutors to stack grand juries with people most likely to do the state’s bidding. The Texas legislature has since started to reform the key man system.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Brown is the 12th death row exoneration since 2013, and the fourth death row inmate exonerated so far this year.