VIRGINIA (USA): SUPPORTED BY NEW DNA EVIDENCE, MAN SENTENCED TO DEATH IN 1970 FILES INNOCENCE CLAIM
October 19, 2016: Sherman Brown (69, Black), a man who was sentenced to death in 1970 for the Oct. 1, 1969 murder of a 4-year-old boy, has filed a writ of actual innocence with the Virginia Supreme Court saying that DNA testing on recently discovered evidence clears him of the crime. Brown's petition states: â€śRecent DNA testing demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence what I have maintained for over 45 years: that I am innocent of this crime. The evidence against me at trial was deeply flawed."
Brown was convicted of a 1969 crime in which a woman was knocked unconscious, stabbed, and possibly raped and her 4-year-old son was killed.
The womanâ€”who is Whiteâ€”identified Brownâ€”who is Blackâ€”as her attacker, and investigators presented expert testimony claiming that a fiber and hair analysis they had conducted implicated Brown.
An all-White jury convicted Brown and sentenced him to death.
His death sentence was reduced to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in 1972 in Furman v. Georgia.
Several recent developments have called Brown's conviction into question.
The fiber and hair evidence used in Brown's trial was among the flawed forensic testimony recently identified by the FBI as lacking scientific validity.
In 2015, the University of Virginia Innocence Project discovered a slide that contains a vaginal swab that was taken from the victim at the time of the crime. DNA testing excluded Brown as the source of a male DNA profile found in the specimen and, with 98% certainty, ruled out the woman's husband. This, Brown says, shows the DNA â€ścame from an unidentified third man and constitutes powerful evidence of [his] innocence.â€ť
The Virginia Supreme Court has stayed Brown's petition to permit additional testing to conclusively determine whether the male DNA could have come from the victim's husband.
If Brown is exonerated, he would be the second Virginia prisoner exonerated after having been sentenced to death. (Source: The Innocence Project, October 19, 2016)