AP NEWS

New Orleans man, 62, free after 42 years and plea agreement

October 16, 2019
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Elvis Brooks walks out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola with his brother Aaron Brooks, left, in Angola, La., Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Elvis Brooks, who has spent two-thirds of his life in prison for a killing he always denied committing, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released. Since his arrest in 1977, Brooks has maintained that he's innocent. Innocence Project New Orleans attorneys say evidence that would have cleared him was withheld at trial. Prosecutors offered the plea agreement Tuesday which was accepted. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Elvis Brooks walks out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola with his brother Aaron Brooks, left, in Angola, La., Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Elvis Brooks, who has spent two-thirds of his life in prison for a killing he always denied committing, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released. Since his arrest in 1977, Brooks has maintained that he's innocent. Innocence Project New Orleans attorneys say evidence that would have cleared him was withheld at trial. Prosecutors offered the plea agreement Tuesday which was accepted. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

ANGOLA, La. (AP) — Free for the first time in 42 years, a New Orleans man who always maintained his innocence over a 1977 slaying walked past a guard tower Wednesday to greet the younger brother who is providing an apartment and job for him.

Elvis Brooks, 62, has always said he was not involved in a fatal robbery for which he’d been given a life sentence. A day after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors, Brooks was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Aaron Brooks put his arm around the shoulders of his older brother, who smiled broadly as the two walked over to a group from Innocence Project New Orleans, which has represented Elvis Brooks since 2002.

That was the year after IPNO was founded, attorney Charrel Arnold said Tuesday. “As soon as Mr. Brooks learned about it, he wrote to us,” she said.

On Tuesday, Brooks accepted a plea agreement offered by prosecutors: if he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and armed robbery, he’d get a sentence that would let him leave prison.

“I wanted my freedom,” he told reporters Tuesday, after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of Cecil Lloyd and to three counts of armed robbery at New Orleans’ Welcome Inn bar. “I’ve been locked up since 1977. I’m not getting any younger.”

Asked Wednesday if he had any plans for world travel, he said he just planned to go to Alexandria and stay with his family. Aaron Brooks owns a restaurant there, Innocence Project New Orleans spokeswoman Cat Forrester said.

They’re among nine siblings — four brothers and five sisters — still alive of a family of 12 siblings; their parents also are dead. Their retired brother Gregory Brooks and his wife, Wanda Brooks, were in court Tuesday to show family support.

On Wednesday, Elvis Brooks carried just an envelope with his release papers, which he went over with attorneys. Aaron Brooks drove off to collect some other belongings — clothes and some boxes. The contents, Elvis Brooks said, included some of his work from the prison wood shop, but he left most of that work behind.

Before the brothers began the 2½-hour drive to Alexandria, Innocence Project New Orleans staffers asked if they could buy him lunch in nearby St. Francisville. Brooks said yes.

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McConnaughey reported from New Orleans.