Evidence is mounting that an innocent man, Alfred Dewayne Brown, is on Texas death row for the killing of a Houston police officer, reports Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle (pay wall to read full article). Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson is considering whether to retry Brown. Falkenberg concludes, “Subjecting Brown to another trial would be a waste of time, precious time that could be spent pursuing the real killer and seeking overdue justice for a fallen hero that is long overdue”.
More from the Houston Chronicle:
Last month, an appellate court threw out Alfred Dewayne Brown’s conviction and death sentence because the DA’s office withheld key evidence at trial that supports Brown’s contention that he was home the morning of the robbery No physical evidence ever tied Brown to the crime. Nearly every witness who fingered him has recanted.
But what if there were another suspect, a legitimate suspect that mounting evidence suggested could have committed the crime instead of Brown? Wouldn’t we expect the district attorney to take a hard look before pursuing another weak case against Brown?
Of course. And records show there is such a suspect. His name is Jero Dorty. And the district attorney’s office has been aware of his potential role in Clark’s death for at least seven years.
In 2007, Brown’s writ attorneys with the firm K&L Gates named Dorty as a “critical suspect” and spent nearly 10 pages of an appeal laying out the reasons why. In 2008, Brown’s attorneys filed an emergency motion to test Dorty’s DNA. But prosecutors dragged their feet.
By late 2010, the law firm had amassed more evidence – phone records, witness statements and a sworn affidavit from one of the other men convicted in the 2003 crime – that led them to declare Dorty “the true perpetrator” in court papers. Attorneys sat down with Assistant District Attorney Inger Hampton to lay it all out in December 2010, according to recently obtained correspondence.
By then, though, Dorty had already been charged in another homicide, apparently resulting from a drug deal gone bad. Brown’s attorneys felt the new charge bolstered their case and urged prosecutors to take evidence linking Dorty to Clark’s death seriously.
“Mr. Dorty is a dangerous individual, with a record of using firearms to rob, harm and kill people,” Brown’s attorney wrote in a November 2010 letter to Hampton and other prosecutors. “Defense counsel has steadfastly asserted that Mr. Dorty, and not Mr. Brown, was responsible for the crimes committed on April 3, 2003.”
Dorty’s trial for the March 2009 drug deal killing ended in a hung jury. He pleaded guilty last year to felony possession of a weapon. Now 33, he is serving a 10-year prison sentence.
It’s not clear how closely the DA’s office investigated Dorty in the Clark case. Hampton and other prosecutors did not return messages. The DA’s spokesman said the office wouldn’t comment on a “pending” case.
Tyrone Moncriffe, who defended Dorty in the drug-related homicide, said the DA’s office contacted him at some point about the Clark case, but he didn’t remember when, and he wouldn’t provide details.
“They did make an effort to look into it,” Moncriffe said.
Mother’s love vs. evidence
Dorty’s mother strongly defended her son: “I can surely say that my son wasn’t involved with that,” Rita Dorty, said in a phone interview.
“Whatever it takes for Mr. Brown to save his neck, that’s his business,” the Houston retiree said. “Mr. Brown could put my name in it, but that doesn’t mean I’m in it.”
Dorty may have an air-tight alibi that I’m unaware of. But the evidence against him is certainly more powerful than anything the state has against Brown.
Only one month before officer Clark was killed trying to stop an armed robbery, Dorty was involved in a separate armed robbery, a crime for which he would be sentenced to five years in prison. Brown had no record of robbery.
The other two men convicted in the robbery that led to Clark’s death are Elijah Joubert, on death row for killing ACE clerk Alfredia Jones, and Dashan Glaspie, who testified against Brown and pleaded to a lesser charge. Both were known associates of Dorty’s, and according to jailhouse correspondence, Glaspie was a close friend.
Phone records show the three talked several times throughout the day Clark was killed, before and after the robbery, but not during it, perhaps because they were together.
Later that night, Dorty exchanged calls with a phone number in Galveston, where one witness said the perpetrators traveled to drop the weapon used in the robbery off a bridge.
Brown’s lawyers also obtained three sworn statements from witnesses, including two who said they had mistakenly identified Brown, rather than Dorty, in connection with the officer’s death because the two looked alike.
Joubert himself implicated Dorty as the third perpetrator, Brown’s attorneys wrote.
“Alfred Dewayne Brown was not involved in any way with the incident on April 3, 2003, nor present at the ACE check cashing store,” Joubert wrote in an affidavit. Brown’s lawyers said Joubert told them he and Glaspie had covered for Dorty because they had a strong friendship. Brown just knew them from an apartment complex where he hung out and once lived.
It seems that many people failed Brown in this case – from defense attorneys to prosecutors to savvy criminal acquaintances who sought to save their own skins. And many people failed Clark, whose friends and family believed the DA’s office brought the right man to justice in 2005 for the veteran police officer’s death.
Prosecutors’ old mistakes may have sent an innocent man to death row and left the real killer free to kill again.
Anderson wasn’t responsible for those mistakes. But as the current district attorney, she has a responsibility to correct rather than perpetuate them.
Subjecting Brown to another trial would be a waste of time, precious time that could be spent pursuing the real killer and seeking overdue justice for a fallen hero that is long overdue.