Texas Supreme Court Rules Man Who Wrongly Spent Almost 10 Years On Death Row Needs To Be Compensated

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that a man who spent nearly 10 years on death row for a crime he did not commit is entitled to compensation from the state despite state officials’ refusal to pay.

Alfred Dewayne Brown was convicted in 2005 of a 2003 capital murder that involved the death of a police officer, according to the ruling.

However, it turned out that the prosecutor in the case suppressed phone records confirming Brown’s alibi that proved he was innocent. Brown was released from prison in 2015 and formally declared innocent after a review of the case found Brown “could not physically have been at the crime scene.”

The state decided a new trial was necessary, but instead filed a motion to dismiss the capital-murder indictment which was granted. Brown spent more than twelve years behind bars, including nearly a decade on death row.

Brown is eligible for approximately $2 million in compensation under state law, according to ABC News.

However, Texas’ Comptroller’s office rejected Brown’s application, arguing the judge who declared Brown innocent didn’t have the jurisdiction to do so, according to the ruling.

The state’s high court said the Comptroller exceeded his duty in rejecting Brown’s claim on the basis that the judge who declared Brown innocent didn’t have the authority to do so.” (RELATED: Death Row Inmate Scheduled To Be Executed Days Before Inauguration Infected With Coronavirus)

“The Comptroller’s purely ministerial duty to determine eligibility does not include looking behind the verified documents to review the district court’s factual and legal conclusions de novo,” the ruling read.

“We direct the Comptroller to … compensate Brown for the time he was wrongfully imprisoned as required by the Tim Cole Act.”

Brown’s attorney, Neal Manne, said Brown was excited about the decision, according to ABC.

“Now I think (Brown) can finally close this chapter of his life knowing that the very highest court in Texas unanimously agreed he was treated wrongly and that he’s entitled to be compensated for it.”

Spokesman for the comptroller’s office Chris Bryan said the agency will comply with the court’s order, according to ABC.

“The Comptroller’s office makes determinations in these claims based on the documentation provided. This claim was no exception, and the claim followed a process that ensures the law is executed properly, including Mr. Brown’s right under the law to appeal his claim to the Supreme Court.”

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said the decision was one of “justice” in a tweet Friday.

“The Texas Supreme Court was on the right side of justice today. Make no mistake – these resources will never make up for the years taken from Alfred Dewayne Brown’s life, but they are the very least that the state can do to help him rebuild.