On May 6, 1980, two armed women robbed Fine Furs by Rubin in Dallas, Texas. The owner, Rubin Danziger, was shot and killed. Another shot missed his wife, Ala, and she was spared after she lied and said she was dying of cancer.
The woman who fired the shots, wearing pink pants and sunglasses, said, “We’ll just let you suffer.” The robbers fled with a bag of furs in a brown 1980 Datsun.
The car was found the next day and police learned the car had been rented in the name of Joyce Ann Brown. Dallas police found an arrest record for a Joyce Ann Brown, 33, of Dallas on a charge of prostitution and put her mug shot in a photographic lineup.
Danziger's wife picked out Brown—who worked at another fur store in Dallas—as the accomplice of the woman who killed her husband. When Brown learned that she was a suspect by reading the May 8 edition of the Dallas Morning News, she turned herself into police and was charged with the crime.
Police then learned that the Joyce Ann Brown who had rented the car was from Denver, Colorado. Interviewed by police, this woman told police she had lent the car to a friend and had not seen the friend or the car thereafter.
Police identified the friend as Renee Michelle Taylor, of Denver, and a search of Taylor's apartment turned up the furs taken in the robbery, pink pants and a 22-caliber revolver. They did not find Taylor and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Joyce Ann Brown from Dallas went on trial in October 1980. Ala Danziger identified her as one of the robbers and the prosecution presented a woman who had been in a cell with Brown prior to trial. The woman, Martha Jean Bruce, testified that Brown had admitted the crime. Asked about her criminal record, Bruce failed to disclose that several months earlier she had been convicted of lying to a police officer.
Brown asserted an alibi defense, presenting a time card and witnesses who said that except for a 36 minute lunch break she had been at work on the day of the murder. The prosecution contended the 36 minute break was enough time for Brown to leave work, change clothes, meet up with her accomplice, commit the crime and return to work.
Brown was convicted by a jury on October 23, 1980 of murder and aggravated robbery. She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
About 10 months after the robbery, Taylor was arrested in Michigan on a shoplifting charge and sent back to Dallas. In October 1981, she pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. She swore in an affidavit that Brown was not her accomplice.
Brown enlisted the help of James McCloskey at Centurion Ministries and his investigation turned up evidence that the prosecution knew about Bruce’s prior conviction for lying to a police officer and had failed to turn it over to Brown’s defense attorney.
The investigation also revealed that Taylor had been wanted for a 1978 armed robbery of a fur store in New Mexico, along with a known associate named Lorraine Germany—a woman who resembled Joyce Ann Brown of Dallas. Germany had been acquitted of the New Mexico robbery and was later convicted of another robbery in Colorado. Taylor admitted that Germany was her partner in the Dallas robbery.
On November 1, 1989, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, ruling on a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus, set aside Brown’s conviction and sentence. She was released on November 3. In February 1990, the charges were dismissed.
– Maurice Possley