Review finds ex-death row inmate innocent of officer’s death
HOUSTON (AP) — A review of a former Texas death row inmate’s case has determined he is innocent of fatally shooting a Houston police officer nearly 16 years ago, blaming his wrongful conviction on prosecutorial misconduct, a district attorney announced Friday.
A nine-month review by a special prosecutor has found that Alfred Dewayne Brown was not responsible for the April 2003 slaying of Officer Charles Clark during a robbery of a check-cashing store, said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg.
“It does no justice to Officer Clark to convict the wrong person,” John Raley, the special prosecutor in the case, said at a news conference.
Raley has previously worked in helping free wrongfully convicted individuals, including Michael Morton, a Central Texas man who spent nearly 25 years in prison for his wife’s beating death.
A store clerk, Alfredia Jones, 27, also was killed during the botched robbery and another man, Elijah Joubert, was sent to death row for her slaying.
In 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out Brown’s conviction and death sentence after it determined prosecutors failed to disclose phone records that supported his alibi. Brown had maintained his innocence, saying he was home at the time of the robbery. The phone records were discovered in 2013 after a homicide investigator found them in his garage.
In 2015, Brown was set free after then Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson dismissed the capital murder charge against him, determining her office couldn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
But Anderson did not pursue Brown’s actual innocence claim, which prevented him from being eligible for nearly $2 million in state compensation. The determination of actual innocence by Ogg’s office means Brown will now be eligible for that compensation.
In his 179-page report, Raley blamed Brown’s wrongful conviction in part on the work of retired Harris County prosecutor Dan Rizzo.
“It is impossible to examine the conviction of Alfred Dewayne Brown without confronting prosecutorial misconduct,” Raley wrote in his report. “ADA Daniel Rizzo presided over a Grand Jury that abusively manipulated witnesses to supply evidence for a chosen narrative. He was provided notice of the existence and meaning of exculpatory evidence, failed to produce it to the defense, and avoided it during trial. Further investigation of his conduct is warranted.”
Last year, Ogg’s office had filed a complaint with the State Bar of Texas alleging misconduct against Rizzo after an email from 2003 was discovered that showed a police investigator had told Rizzo about the phone records before Brown was tried and convicted.
The State Bar last month closed its probe after finding no just cause to proceed with disciplinary action. Ogg said Raley will file an additional complaint against Rizzo with the State Bar. Ogg said because she has known Rizzo for 32 years, someone else will have to be appointed to look at whether Rizzo might face any criminal charges for his conduct.
“Dan Rizzo served the citizens of the state of Texas and Harris County with distinction and pride for over 25 years. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is climbing over Dan Rizzo’s back to free a cop killer because of a campaign promise. The people of Harris County lost today,” Rizzo’s attorney, Chris Tritico, said in a statement.
Neal Manne, Brown’s attorney, said Brown just wants to live his life peacefully and happily. Since being released, Brown moved to Louisiana, where he is raising his daughter and working as a truck driver.
“I think he will feel so appreciative the district attorney today has essentially acknowledged for all purposes and for all time, ‘You were innocent. You didn’t do this. We were wrong.’ I think that’s what’s going to make him feel good,” Manne said.
At a separate news conference, Ray Hunt, the past president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, criticized Raley’s report, saying that “not one retired or active detective from the Houston Police homicide division believes that this person is actually innocent.”
Ogg hired Raley “for one reason and one reason only, and that was to find Alfred Brown actually innocent,” Hunt said.
Hilde Clark, Officer Charles Clark’s widow, told reporters she still believes Brown killed her husband and wants him to be tried again.
“I feel like I am fighting the system. I should not have to fight the system to get my husband justice,” she said.
Ogg said she understands the anger and frustration that the victims’ families may now be feeling but she believes she is telling them the truth about what happened in this case.
“I think it’s important in looking back that as the elected DA, we hold everybody accountable in this case for the injustices that have occurred to the victims and to the accused,” Ogg said.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70