Apr 20, 2009

On Julia Bates, Danny Brown, and Justice

Danny Brown in front of Lucas County Courthouse

I have written about my friend Danny Brown many times in print, in journals, and on this blog. He is a man wrongly incarcerated for a 1981 rape-murder, and who DNA evidence helped free in 2001.

Danny, however, remains in legal limbo because Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates and her investigators still consider Danny Brown to be a suspect. Given the fact that there is no statute of limitations on murder cases, Danny could conceivably remain under a cloud of suspicion for the rest of his life. Moreover, as long as Danny is a "suspect," he cannot collect the compensation due to him under a state program set up for such cases of wrongful incarceration.

I met with Danny today for a few hours, and I picked him up in front of the courthouse. Lately he has been on a one-man picketing crusade at the building, trying to get people interested in this ugly case of injustice. At the downtown library we passed Jack Lessenberry, ombudsman of the Toledo Blade, who promised he would try to help if Danny came to his office with his story.

Bates, of course, has no incentive to take such a case to court, since there is no physical evidence linking Danny to the murder victim. Moreover, Danny passed polygraphs and provided prosecutors with 13 witnesses who testified that Danny was at a party on the other side of town when the murder occurred.

So Jack Lessenberry's help, should it materialize, will likely be just another of many editorials and articles pointing out the horror that has been perpetrated on Danny Brown. It will take a governor, a state attorney general, or ten thousand angry peasants with pikes and torches to get Julia Bates to change her tune.

So if you would like to join the mob of angry virtual peasants, feel free to call Julia Bates at (419) 213-4700. Julia Bates can be emailed at jbates@co.lucas.oh.us if you would like to let her know your feelings about the injustice her office continues to heap on Danny Brown. You can also follow this link to learn more about Danny Brown's fight for justice in greater detail.

I will also provide information on this site in another week or so for anyone who would like to provide financial help to Danny Brown in his campaign to clear his name and to collect what he is owed for the 19 years he rotted in state prison cells. Up to this point Danny has been too proud to ask for any help, but I think the past eight years of legal limbo have worn down his pride a bit.


Danny Brown said...

This is Danny Brown, I want to thank you for your support. I am now walking the beat at the court house asking Ms. Bates for some justice. I would appreciate it if you help my cause by calling, writting and e-mailing Ms. Julia Bates as to why she would treat a human being the way I've been treated. Thank you in advance. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Carol said...

This is a truly sad story ... where a man can spend 19 years of his life paying for a crime that he apparently did not commit.

Mr. Brown was cleared through DNA (if I read the stories correctly) and released from prison. That must have felt like a glorious, albeit empty, victory since Ms. Bates' office still considers him a suspect.

Would petitioning the Governor, or perhaps a Senator/Representative be helpful? My understanding of Ms. Bates' 'policies' leads me to think that she will not back down voluntarily as it would reflect on her office. And God knows ... without that position she wouldn't be dirt.

Mr. Brown - I apologize for the egregious behavior of Ms. Bates. IMO she does not belong in that position, and once she was in it she should not have been permitted to stay. Ms. Bates, again IMO, takes every single case and question as a personal affront - case law be damned.

Molly said...

Mike and Danny, What about putting together a facebook cause page and a petition on petitionsite? I always thought they were rather silly but concede it worked towards getting some changes made at the Lucas Co dog pound. I think people love to help if you make it easy for them to do so. Perhaps we can round up 10,000 virtual peasants that way.
I recently read a book about the The Innocence Project, which was eye-opening to say the least. It's appalling how often this happens, people basically snatched out of their lives based on no concrete evidence. The general public believes DNA "fixes" it all now, when nothing could be farther from the truth. As in Danny's case, the hoops that are out there are still oftentimes set too high for anyone to actually leap through.
I'd be happy to put it together and get it started, including emails to local media, if no one else has. Can't hurt. I'll also email Ms Bates. I'll be interested to see what kind of a response we get.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mike, for taking this cause. I am writing my email now to Ms. Bates.

Mesmerix said...

Has Prosecutor Bates said *why* she refuses to remove him from the suspect list?

It would be interesting to know. Thank you for bringing this story to light.

historymike said...

(comment cross-posted from another thread at Toledo Talk):

The prosecutor publicly will not comment on specifics, and the last time she spoke, she insisted that there is an "ongoing investigation."


The prosecution in court filings points to the fact that in the original witness testimony of the 6-year-old son of the victim the child first said there was one and then there were two assailants. This before switching back once again to seeing one killer.

The prosecution was quite happy with one assailant when it fit their case back in 1982, but now that DNA shows another man raped the victim, they want to go back to the once-discarded two-killer theory. Of course, the fact that the child's testimony was full of holes and impossibilities means nothing to the prosecutor now - just the fact that there might have been two killers is enough for them, since that means Danny cannot be excluded.

However, neither can 3 billion other males on the planet, since there is no physical evidence linking them to the crime. Hell, throw the planet's 3 billion women in, too: since the rape was committed by a known murderer-rapist (Sherman Preston), his "accomplice" could have been just about any human being, since apparently evidence no longer needs to be used to consider someone a suspect.

The prosecutor knows that the DNA matches Sherman Preston, a criminal serving 20-to-life on a similar rape-murder. However, since Preston does not come up for parole until 2013, they are in no hurry to do anything. They refuse to give Danny Brown a new trial - the trial to which he is entitled as a condition of his 2001 release - because they have absolutely no case.

No physical evidence. 13 witnesses who put Danny on the other side of the town at the time of the murder. Polygraphs that Danny passed (of course, the cops only want to use polygraphs when they work against suspects).

Yet because a confused 6-year-old boy thought at one point he saw two men the night his mother was murdered, Danny Brown remains a suspect. Forget the fact that the boy said he saw his mother stabbed (she was actually strangled), or that while he said he was under his bed he supposedly saw violent events in another room, or that the point at which he claimed he saw Danny would have been obscured by a concrete awning.

This case was so bad in 1982 that they offered Danny a plea deal of 1-10 years for involuntary manslaughter, which he turned down.

Because he is an innocent man, and because he naively believed that the justice system works. Heck, if he had taken that deal, he might have gotten out in 1984 or 1986, though with a felony conviction.

Ultimately, it will take someone with some political muscle to force this case out into the open. Since we have an all-Democratic administration, it may have to wait, since I can't see a Democratic pol turning on one of their own (Julia Bates). I told Danny he would be better off trying to get the Republicans interested than he would be to write his Democratic representatives.

Oh, and those Democratic weasels? I wrote a bunch of letters to state reps from the area, and never heard a single word back: not even a "thanks for writing, and remember me in November" form letter. While I am a political independent, I have to say that every one of these reps was a Democrat (Edna Brown and Teresa Fedor deserve special un-thanks, since he lived in their districts).

I guess there is no hay to be made if the political opponent is on the same team.

historymike said...


That is a great idea. I will get with Danny and write the text of the petition.

Mad Jack said...

From HistoryMike: ...since there is no physical evidence linking Danny to the murder victim.Which is where the DNA comes in. If I'm reading this correctly when Danny was wrongfully convicted DNA testing was not available, so evidence collected at the scene was incorrectly identified as belonging to Danny. DNA testing has established that that is not the case, so the evidence must be disposed of in the prosecution's argument.

However, should the case be retried, DNA evidence could be introduced to prove the presence of another man at the scene. Note that this does not prove Danny wasn't there; it proves someone else was: Sherman Preston.

From HistoryMike: Moreover, Danny passed polygraphs...Polygraph tests are inadmissible in court, and for good reason. The 'lie detector' doesn't. As a matter of fact, I cannot pass a lie detector test. I'm found guilty of everything, including the Lindbergh kidnapping.

From HistoryMike: ...and provided prosecutors with 13 witnesses who testified that Danny was at a party on the other side of town when the murder occurred.We may assume that these are all adults. Thirteen adult witnesses testified, versus one six year old boy, Jeffrey, son of the late Bobbie Russell. It is possible that Jeffrey, in his zeal to help the police catch his mother’s killer, unknowingly helped convict an innocent man.It is also possible that a six year old can be manipulated into saying anything the authorities want him to say. Any experienced parent can attest to the truthfulness of a child - it doesn't exist.

Danny was railroaded, pure and simple. If the rest of us are to learn anything at all from Danny's experience, certainly one of the important lessons here is: Do not talk to the police. Never. The only thing the police have a right to ask you is your name and to see your ID. Other than that, do not cooperate, do not answer any questions. Insist on a lawyer.

Mesmerix said...

Polygraph tests are inadmissible in court, and for good reason.I just wanted to note here that Polygraph test results can be used by the Defense, but never the Prosecution. Polygraphs are used only by police to assist in their investigation in ruling out suspects. At least, that is what I was taught in my policing classes :)

That being said, I want to thank Mike and everyone else for providing the information. What happened to Danny is terrible. I hope justice is someday truly served.

Molly said...

Thinking some more, I'd also suggest more emphasis on "justice for Bobbie Russell." Since the DNA evidence has never been used in a trial and since Danny has been released from prison, no one has actually been made to pay for this crime. In fact, because of their incompetence in railroading Danny, another woman lost her life to the real killer. No wonder Bates wants to sidestep the spotlight.
Also, what about a rally? It might be challenging to get a crowd during the times court is open but even a few dozen people is a symbolic show of support for someone who is standing out there alone, trying to get his name cleared.
And most politicians now have facebook pages. Posting your blog on their sites might not get a response but it does make the information accessible to anyone else who is on there.

Onesunnyday said...

Hi Danny,

I've just watched your story here in Scotland on CBS Reality's will to live show. I am amazed at your strength of character - I would be very bitter having been wrongly been incarcerated for 19years of my life! If you are reading this I hope that you realise that your story is spreading and you have support from all over the world, not just the USA. One day I beleive your name will (have to be) cleared properly because you won't have it any other way! Sending best wishes to you and your family.