Retested Fingerprint Leads To Freedom For Man Serving Life Sentence

Adam Braseel served 12 years behind bars before evidence was re-examined to prove he wasn't the man who bludgeoned Malcolm Burrows to death in 2006.

By Eric Shorey

A Tennessee man who had been convicted of murder was locked away for more than 12 years. Now, after a crime scene fingerprint was retested, he's been freed and is seeking a pardon.

Attorneys for Adam Braseel, now 36, say that he had been wrongfully sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for the murder of Malcolm Burrows after re-examined evidence pointed police toward an entirely different suspect. Because no physical evidence connects Braseel to the crime, he was able to strike a plea deal that led to his release.

Fingerprints from the original crime, which had undergone another round of review by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's crime lab in 2007, indicate that it was a man named Kermit Bryson — not Braseel — who murdered Burrows. A witness called to testify during court proceedings confirmed that Bryson had privately confessed to the murder of Burrows. Bryson had killed himself after murdering a policeman in 2008, according to WRCB-TV of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Burrows had been bludgeoned to death on the night of Jan. 7, 2006 after an unidentified man asked for help to fix his stalled vehicle, according to Knox News. Braseel had been mistaken for Bryson when Becky Hill, Burrows' sister (who is now deceased), misidentified him as the red-headed individual who came back to the house and tried to kill her as well. 

Cheers erupted in the court room on Wednesday when the decision to free Braseel was announced. Alex Little, a representative for Braseel, celebrated the court's decision.

“This is an incredible and important day for Adam and his family," Little told WTVF of Nashville, Tennessee. "We can never forget, however, that there is another family grieving. But justice does not mean that an innocent man should spend 12 years in jail. In this country, our system of justice is imperfect. Adam has always maintained his innocence, and the facts bear that out. Today’s result was a small step in the right direction. I have been honored to represent Adam and look forward to his contributions to our community,”

Braseel will seek an official pardon after accepting a so-called "best interest" deal, in which he admitted guilt to a lesser charge of aggravated assault in exchange for the murder charges against him being dropped. The maneuver allowed for his immediate release but he has not yet granted him the complete exoneration he seeks.

This is technically the second time that Braseel has petitioned for a new trial. He had previously been released and re-incarcerated in 2015 after a Court of Appeals overturned a decision that had freed him.

"It's been a long time coming," Braseel said, as he hugged his mother following the announcement of his release. "I'm coming home."

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