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Knolly Brown, Jr.

Other North Carolina Guilty Plea Cases
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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 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 brought him to the girl’s home where she identified him 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. In addition, a forensic analyst said that two sets of shoeprints found in the abandoned home matched the victim’s shoes and the Pony brand shoes seized from Brown.

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 a single male DNA profile that did not match Brown’s DNA.

Moreover, a re-examination of the photographs and casts made of the shoe prints showed that the larger shoe prints—which the prosecution’s analyst said were left by Brown’s Pony brand shoes—were made by Nike Air Jordan brand shoes.

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."

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/26/2016
State:North Carolina
County:Edgecomb
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Convicted:2009
Exonerated:2016
Sentence:5 years to 6 and 3/4 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:37
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes