In 1989, police in Suffolk County, New York conducted an undercover sting operation and tape recorded a drug deal in which an undercover officer bought drugs. The police believed that the voice on the tape was that of Clarence Braunskill, a man with a prior conviction for drug distribution who matched the description of the man selling the drugs. Based on the testimony of the undercover cops, a jury convicted Braunskill in January 1990 of selling and possessing drugs, and he was sentenced to 20-to-40 years.
Braunskill’s brother pursued his own investigation after the conviction, identifying another man as the one who had sold the drugs. A later voice analysis also confirmed that it was not Braunskill’s voice. The real perpetrator, who looked and sounded similar to Braunskill, eventually confessed after the statute of limitations for prosecuting him had passed. Prosecutors moved to vacate Braunskill’s conviction. The motion was granted and he was released in April 1997.
Braunskill filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit and received a $1.2 million settlement.
- Stephanie Denzel