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Alfred Dewayne Brown, one of the subjects of the new Netflix docuseries "The Innocence Files," had exhausted many of his appeal options following his conviction for a murder that landed him on death row in Texas.
But when his pro bono attorney Brian Stolarz filed a writ of habeas corpus in his case, the Texas county prosecutor who reviewed it broke down in tears reading how apparently flimsy the case that convicted Brown turned out to be, she told the docuseries.
Brown was indicted by a grand jury in 2005 for the 2003 killing of Houston police officer Charles Clark during a robbery of a check-cashing store. Dashan Glaspie, 21, and Elijah Joubert, 23, were also charged in the killing of Clark and store clerk Alfredia Jones, according to the University of Michigan's National Registry of Exonerations.
Brown, then 21, noted in the docuseries that he'd moved to Texas from Louisiana and, at the time, was living in a low-income apartment complex that had a reputation for crime; he was also acquainted with Joubert and Glaspie.
However, Brown was asleep at his girlfriend's home when the robbery took place, he explained. But that didn't stop Glaspie and Joubert from implicating him in their interviews with police.
Glaspie ended up testifying against Joubert and Brown in exchange for a sentence of 30 years in prison. Joubert and Brown were both sentenced to death following their trials — despite the fact that no physical evidence tied Brown to the scene and he had testified in court about his alibi.
The case was also complicated by testimony that had nearly exclusively come from people who either had something to hide, changed their stories or were apparently pressured into speaking out, the docuseries explains.
"Every civilian witness that testified in this case had problems. It seemed like everybody had a criminal history and everyone had a slightly different story before, if not a completely different story," former Harris County prosecutor Inger Hampton Chandler told filmmakers.
Even Brown's girlfriend, Ericka Dockery, ended up testifying against him despite initially telling a grand jury that Brown had called her from her home phone at the time of the shooting, which supported his alibi.
Houston Chronicle editor Lisa Falkenberg said Dockery only changed her story after "appalling" treatment by the grand jury. The transcript indicates a number of grand jurors apparently threatened Dockery, a mother of three, with imprisonment after she initially corroborated Brown's alibi in sworn testimony. The grand jury foreperson was a retired police officer and had an existing relationship with the prosecutor in the case, Dan Rizzo, Falkenberg explained.
Dockery did change her story, but was arrested for perjury anyway, she tells the docuseries. She later testified at trial that Brown told her he had shot Clark — testimony she would later recant as a lie.
Brown was convicted and sentenced to death after a three-day trial in 2005.
Stolarz took up the case in 2007, and worked to form a rapport with Brown. He began investigating the case, while Brown managed to convince Joubert — who was also on death row — to sign an affidavit swearing Brown wasn't at the scene of the shooting.
Joubert did so his to ease his conscience, he told the documentarians during a prison interview, acknowledging Brown was only in prison "because I didn't say nothing in the beginning."
Stolarz was also able to get Dockery to swear in an affidavit that she had lied in her court testimony that Brown confessed to the killing. However, the investigation stalled after Stolarz was unable to find the phone records that would prove Brown called Dockery from her house phone.
But then, one of the officers subpoenaed in the case revealed to Stolarz and the prosecutors reviewing the case that he'd discovered an apparently forgotten box of files in his garage that contained the call record — the record that could have exculpated Brown if it had been produced during his trial.
Both Chandler and Stolarz told the docuseries the withheld call record should have been provided to Brown's defense under the Brady Rule. Brady refers to the Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to disclose any and all evidence that could help prove a defendant's innocence. Ordinarily, a Brady violation is grounds for vacating a conviction.
As a result, in 2015, then-Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announces that, following a review of the case by her prosecutors, there wasn't enough evidence to retry Brown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he was guilty of murder. Brown was released from prison.
After Brown's attorneys filed a civil lawsuit against Harris County, his attorneys also learned that the prosecutor at the time, Rizzo, was actually aware of the evidence that could have exculpated Brown but didn't disclose it. Despite that, he was able to remove himself from the civil lawsuit by citing prosecutorial legal immunity, the docuseries noted.
In 2019, current Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Brown was "actually innocent" and says he was a victim of prosecutorial misconduct.
What Happened To Alfred Brown?
Brown was declared factually innocent of the crime in February 2019 — which meant he would be eligible for compensation for the time he spent on death row due to his wrongful conviction.
However, the Texas state comptroller denied his petition for compensation in June of that year, according to the University of Michigan. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had actually intervened in the case, arguing to the comptroller's office that Brown wasn't actually innocent despite his legal exoneration, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Brown is currently appealing his petition for compensation to the Texas Supreme Court and the separate civil lawsuit against Harris County, the city of Houston, and a number of individual police officers is still pending.
He's living a "quiet, peaceful life" in his home state of Louisiana as of 2020, Stolarz told Oxygen.com. He also praised Brown's attitude and outlook on life, even after spending well over a decade in prison.
"He's made me a better person just by knowing him," Stolarz told Oxygen.com.
Stolarz also noted that he and his client are "honored the Innocence Project included Dewayne's story in this docuseries ... these injustices are not over and he is still seeking compensation for the 12 years and 62 days he spent in prison."
"The Innocence Files" is available to stream on Netflix beginning April15.
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