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Alfred Brown

Other Texas Death Row Exonerees
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On April 3, 2003, three men robbed Ace America’s Cash Express, a Houston, Texas check-cashing store, and fatally shot the store clerk, 27-year-old Alfredia Jones, and 45-year-old Houston police officer Charles Clark, who responded to the store’s alarm.

A day later, police arrested 21-year-old Alfred Brown, 21-year-old Dashan Glaspie, and 23-year-old Elijah Joubert on charges of capital murder.

Glaspie pled guilty to armed robbery in return for a 30-year prison sentence and testified against Joubert and Brown, who were convicted in separate trials in Harris County Criminal District Court. Both were sentenced to death.

By the time Brown went to trial in October 2005, Joubert was already on Death Row. Glaspie told the jury that they intended to rob another store, but when the owner drew a gun, they changed their plan and went into a furniture store next to the check-cashing business.

When Jones arrived to open the check-cashing business, Joubert, armed with a pistol, went inside with her. Glaspie said Joubert allowed Jones to make a telephone call. Jones called an affiliated check-cashing business to say that she was “opening Center 24.” This statement was actually a code to alert authorities of the robbery.

Glaspie said he and Brown then entered the check-cashing business. Glaspie said Joubert held his gun to Jones’s head and ordered her to open the safe as Glaspie checked for surveillance equipment, and Brown rummaged through Jones’s purse. As the robbery was occurring, Officer Clark arrived and came inside. Glaspie said Brown shot Clark and that Joubert then accused Jones of tipping off the police and shot her.

Defense attorneys contended that Brown was not involved in the crime and that Glaspie was more involved that he would admit.

Sheikah Mohammad Afzal, an employee at the furniture store adjacent to the check-cashing store, testified that he was 85 percent certain that Brown was one of the two men who were in his store prior to the robbery and whom he saw leave and head toward the check-cashing business. “I identified him in the lineup, and I identified him in the store also,” Afzal testified. “He’s the same guy.”

A witness testified that earlier in the day, she saw Brown with Glaspie and Joubert at the Villa Americana apartments where Glaspie and Joubert lived. She testified that Joubert asked Glaspie, “Are you ready to go do this?” she then saw Glaspie loading bullets into a pistol.

Sharonda Simon, Brown’s former girlfriend, testified that she saw Brown at the Villa Americana apartments after the crime. She said he was in a car that matched the description of a car seen fleeing from the crime and that Glaspie and Joubert were standing nearby.

After Brown was arrested, he told police that he was asleep on the couch at the home of his girlfriend, Ericka Dockery, at the time of the crime. Dockery, when called to the grand jury, initially corroborated Brown’s account. She also corroborated Brown’s statement that while at the home, he called Dockery at her place of work—at the same time that police believed he was with Joubert and Glaspie, changing clothes after the robbery.

However, during harsh questioning by the prosecutor, Dan Rizzo, as well as the grand jury foreman(who was later determined to be a Houston police officer)—that included references to losing her children and going to prison for perjury—Dockery changed her testimony.

She was indicted for aggravated perjury, anyway. At Brown’s trial, she said she left her home at hours earlier than she had said before—which allowed for Brown, if he was there, to leave and commit the crime. She also testified that when she asked Brown if he committed the crime, he confessed, saying, “I was there. I was there.”

Brown’s defense attorneys were unable to find any telephone records to corroborate Brown’s claim that he called Dockery at her work the morning of the crime.

On October 8, 2005, the jury convicted Brown of capital murder. Days later, the jury voted to sentence Brown to death.

In 2011, attorneys representing Brown arranged for Anthony Graves, a Texas Death Row exoneree, to interview Dockery after she had rebuffed all interview requests for years. During the conversation with Graves and an investigator for Brown, Dockery, who had ultimately been convicted of perjury, recanted her testimony. She said she lied because she had been threatened and badgered by the prosecutor and the grand jurors.

Dockery signed a sworn affidavit that said, in part that the prosecutor, Rizzo “told me that he did not believe me, that I was not a good person, that he was going to take my children away by calling Child Protective Services, and that I was going to go to jail for a long time. I felt very threatened by ADA Rizzo throughout this whole case.”

Dockery said that Rizzo said he would charge her with murder as well and “I would never see my children again…..These threats are why I gave the testimony I did.”

In 2013, Lynn Hardaway, the head of the Harris County District Attorney’s post-conviction writs unit, informed Brown’s lawyers that a homicide detective was cleaning out his garage when he found records from the case. In the records was a telephone log showing that a call was made from Dockery’s home telephone to her workplace at 10:08 a.m.—just as Brown had said from the beginning. The documents in the garage also included a subpoena from Rizzo, the trial prosecutor, to the phone company, demonstrating that the District Attorney’s Office had the critical phone record at the time of trial but did not turn it to the defense.

Harris County District Attorney Mike Anderson joined the defense in the filing of a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The trial court recommended the writ be granted. In November 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ, vacated Brown’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

In 2014, Houston Chronicle newspaper columnist Lisa Falkenberg wrote a series of articles about the case detailing how the foreman of the grand jury that indicted Brown and intimidated Dockery was—like Clark—a Houston police officer. Falkenberg described how Dockery had been jailed for seven weeks before she agreed to plead guilty to perjury charges and to testify against Brown. For her articles, Falkenberg was awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

On June 9, 2015, Devon Anderson, wife of Mike Anderson, who in 2013 was appointed to serve out her husband’s term after he died, dismissed the charge. She said her decision was made because the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence, although Houston police continued to contend that Brown was guilty.

“We re-interviewed all the witnesses. We looked at all the evidence and we’re coming up short,” Anderson said. “We cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore the law demands that I dismiss this case and release Mr. Brown.”

Hours later, Brown was released.
 
In 2016, Brown's lawyers filed a request that the state pay nearly $2 million in compensation. In June 2017, he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Harris County prosecutors and Houston police.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/10/2015
Last Updated: 6/14/2017
State:Texas
County:Harris
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Convicted:2005
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:Death
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:21
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No