HOUSTON - Charges against a man sentenced to death in the 2003 killing of a Houston Police Department officer have been dropped, the Harris County district attorney announced.
District Attorney Devon Anderson said Monday that capital murder charges have been dropped against Alfred Dewayne Brown and he was released Monday evening.
"I went there as an innocent man and I came out as an innocent man," Brown said. "I'm pretty sure there's many more like me. I truly apologize, even though I didn't do the crime. But I did know the guys who did the crime, and one of them is on death row as I speak."
Sources close to the case said one witness has died, another is no longer able to testify and others recanted. HPD officer and union vice president Douglas Griffith worked with Clark and firmly believes Brown is guilty.
"Just because he's being released doesn't make him innocent," Griffith said.
Based on that ruling, Anderson could have either dropped the charges against Brown or granted him a new trial.
Anderson said after Brown's conviction was overturned, her office assigned prosecutors to start a completely new investigation of the case. Monday she revealed the results.
The investigation into Clark's death remains open, the DA's Office said, and there is no statute of limitation for capital murder.
"They could come back or think they have some evidence, or find somebody that they think is a good witness," Brown's attorney Katherine Scardino said. "They could come back and charge him again. So all is not over. It won't be over until the day he dies."
"As it stands right now, we have insufficient evidence to go forward to retry Brown," Anderson said.
The Houston Police Officers Union reacted sharply to the news while at the same time saying the union supports the district attorney's decision. Joe Grimaldi with HPOU said, "Let us be clear. We believe we had the right man at that time, we believe we have the right man now."
A short time later HPOU's Twitter feed included a tweet that said:
"Murderer of HPD Off Clark will be released today. This is not a wrongful conviction but has been granted a retrial in light of new evidence."
Police Chief Charles McClelland said he also supports Anderson's decision, but that Brown remains a "person of interest" in the capital murder investigation, which remains open.
"I haven't seen any evidence that proves or convinces me this person is not guilty," McClelland said.
Channel 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said in the eyes of the law, Brown is now an innocent man.
"It's not a defendant's burden to demonstrate his or her innocence. It's the prosecutions responsibility to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Wice said.
Prosecutors said Brown and two other men were robbing a check-cashing store when they shot and killed the store clerk, Alfredia Jones, and then Officer Charles Clark, who responded to the scene.
Brown claimed that he was innocent and that he had an alibi that could prove it. He said he was at his girlfriend's house and made a call from a landline phone. But phone records were never produced during the trial or shared with the defense.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office found the phone records in 2013 during a post-conviction review of the case. They were in the garage of a homicide detective.
The office then turned over the evidence to Brown's defense attorneys, who filed a new appeal on his behalf.
"There's a rule that requires prosecutors to show the defense any evidence that would tend to show innocence, and that was not done in this case," said Sandy Thompson, a professor at the University of Houston's Law Center.
"My heart goes out to the families of Officer Clark and Alfredia Jones, whose loss and continuing grief cannot be comprehended. I can only assure them that their loved ones will never be forgotten and our pursuit of justice for those responsible will never cease," Anderson said Monday.
For now, Brown said he wants nothing more than a quiet life.
"Just a job," he said. "Any job will do, and be a father. That's about it."
Brown said he's not sure if he will stay in Houston or try to start a new life elsewhere.
Victim's brother speaks out
KPRC 2 also spoke with the brother of Jones. Times Jones said he is no longer sure if Brown is guilty or innocent in Clark's murder.
However, he does say he believes Brown was involved in the robbery that led to his sister's and the officer's deaths and he should not have been released from prison.
"I think that they shouldn't let him walk out," Jones said. "I think they should punish him. You know, give him more time to think about what he did."
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