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Knolly Brown, Jr.

Other North Carolina Guilty Plea Cases
On January 25, 2008, a 12-year-old girl was walking home from school in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, when she was forced into an abandoned home and raped.

The girl went home and told her mother, who summoned police. The girl took police to the abandoned home and said she had been taken inside through the back doorway. Police found two sets of shoeprints in the dirt near the back door. One set appeared to have been made by the girl's tennis shoes. The other set of shoeprints was larger in size. Police collected a condom and a condom wrapper at the abandoned home and took photographs and made casts of the all of the shoeprints.

The girl was taken for a medical examination and a rape kit was prepared. Her clothing was taken as evidence as well.

The girl then looked through more than 2,600 police mug shots and selected five men whom she said resembled the rapist. On the following day, however, before any of them could be questioned, the girl said that she saw her rapist on a porch across the street from her friend’s house.

Police arrested the man, 37-year-old Knolly Brown, Jr., and the victim identified him in a showup as the rapist. Police took Brown’s clothing and obtained a search warrant for his house where they found clothing and shoes that matched the girl’s description of the rapist’s clothing. Brown told police he was not involved in the crime, but he was charged with first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

A pubic hair recovered during the medical examination of the girl was sent to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory. An analyst declared that a microscopic comparison of the hair with one taken from Brown showed that the pubic hair was consistent with Brown’s pubic hair.

The hair recovered during the examination of the girl was sent to the Connecticut Department of Public Safety Forensic Science Laboratory for mitochondrial DNA testing. Those tests showed the hair came from the victim and not from Brown.

The North Carolina crime lab also reported that an examination of the girl’s underwear revealed the presence of blood, although no blood type was determined. The lab also reported that no semen or sperm could be found.

On October 14, 2009, Brown—facing decades in prison if convicted at trial—pled no contest to a charge of second-degree forcible rape and the charges of first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping were dismissed. He was sentenced to 5 years to 6 years and 9 months in prison.

In May 2010, Brown wrote to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission requesting that his case be investigated. In June 2013, he was released from prison on parole.

The Commission began re-investigating the case and ultimately DNA testing was performed on all of the girl’s clothing. During this analysis, semen and sperm were detected for the first time. The tests identified more than one male profile and excluded Brown.

Moreover, a re-examination of the photographs and casts made of the shoe prints found at the scene of the rape showed that larger shoe prints were made by Nike Air Jordan brand shoes—not the Pony brand shoes belonging to Brown.

On June 16, 2016, the Innocence Commission declared Brown factually innocent, vacated his conviction and—with the agreement of the Edgecombe County District Attorney’s Office—dismissed the case.

Assistant District Attorney Terry Orndorff said, “We believe that justice requires us to join in the defendant’s motion (to dismiss). If the state had this DNA evidence back in 2008, 2009, I have no doubt the case against Mr. Brown would have been dismissed.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Allen Baddour, Jr., told Brown, “I will offer on behalf of the state and the court system our apology to you for this conviction."
In January 2018, the North Carolina Industrial Commission awarded Brown $185,342 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/26/2016
Last Updated: 2/3/2019
State:North Carolina
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:5 to 6 3/4 years
Age at the date of reported crime:37
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes