In September 1990, a 5-year-old girl was abducted from her Richardson, Texas home and molested. The girl told police her attacker was a fat, white man with a strange voice.
Police recovered a hair from the blanket the girl had with her and a fingerprint from the screen of the window through which the perpetrator entered the house. The abduction was one of a string of abductions and assaults in the area.
In August 1991, Stephen Brodie was arrested for robbing a soda machine. The police questioned him about the September 1990 assault, interrogating him for 18 hours over the course of eight days. For part of that time, Brodie, who is deaf, was interrogated without a sign language interpreter.
Police attributed the girl’s description of her attacker as having a “strange voice” to Brodie’s deafness and the peculiar intonation that disability gave to his voice. Brodie eventually confessed to the attack, but got many of the details wrong. He also confessed to a variety of crimes the police made up. Faced with a possible 99-year sentence, Brodie pled guilty to rape and received a 5-year sentence.
Brodie served his 5-year term, but remained in prison because he refused to register as a sex offender.
It was later discovered that police failed to tell Brodie’s attorney that the hair found on the victim’s blanket did not match Brodie, the victim, or anyone in the victim’s family, and that the fingerprint found on the window screen matched that of a convicted child rapist who was suspected in a number of other assaults in the area. Brodie’s case was reopened after his father wrote to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
In 2010, prosecutors in that unit argued for Brodie’s release, and in September 2010, a Texas District Court judge vacated his conviction on the grounds of actual innocence. In 2011, Brodie received a lump sum of $877,000 in state compensation plus a monthly annuity of $4,298.
- Stephanie Denzel