A Houston man sentenced to death a decade ago for a fatal police shooting has won a new trial in a case that raised questions about the system used for selecting grand juries in Texas and California.
Alfred Dewayne Brown, 32, has always claimed he was innocent of the 2003 shooting of Houston police Officer Charles Clark during a robbery at a check cashing store that also resulted in the death of a clerk. Another man, Elijah Joubert, is also on death row for the killings.
Brown's attorneys did not immediately comment Wednesday.
They had argued that crucial evidence was withheld during his 2005 murder trial, and that the grand jury that indicted him had intimidated Brown's girlfriend, an alibi witness, into changing her story. A Houston Chronicle series noted that the grand jury included a police booster and that the foreman was an active duty Houston police officer.
Grand juries in Texas, as in California, can be selected using a "key man" system in which the judge picks one or more people to serve as commissioners, who then choose from a pool of volunteer grand jurors. Critics fault the system for producing grand juries more sympathetic to law enforcement. The rest of the states as well as federal courts randomly select grand jurors.
On Wednesday, a year and a half after Brown's trial judge recommended a new trial, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction and sent the case back for potential retrial. The appeals court found that telephone records bolstering Brown's case were withheld at trial, records that apparently surfaced last year when a homicide investigator cleaned out his garage.
Former Harris County Dist. Atty. Mike Anderson had said a new trial was warranted. Anderson died last year, and his widow, a former judge who was appointed to replace him then elected on Tuesday, said she was still deciding Wednesday.
"I will now carefully review and evaluate the case to determine the appropriate proceedings," said Dist. Atty. Devon Anderson, his widow.