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Albert Brown

Other Suffolk County, Massachusetts Exonerations
At around 10:30 p.m. on May 23, 1984, Bienvenido (Benny) DeJesus called 911 in Boston, Massachusetts, and said there had been a shooting at his home in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood.

He flagged down the dispatched police car and the officers and DeJesus went into the house, where they found DeJesus’s brother, 26-year-old Efrain DeJesus, bleeding from a shotgun wound to the chest. An ambulance took him to Boston City Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:49 p.m.

An officer showed DeJesus a driver’s license in the name of Floyd Hamilton found at the crime scene. DeJesus said it was the man with the shotgun. DeJesus told police that a second man was present, Louis Jackson, whom he recognized from work. DeJesus said his brother had sold Jackson cocaine several times.

Police arrested Jackson on May 25, 1984, and learned his real name was Joseph Pope, and that he was 37 years old and had escaped from the Deer Island Prison in Boston Harbor in early May.

A week after Pope’s arrest, police arrested a man named Ricky Tisdale after they said they saw him carrying a shotgun as he left a house with two other men. A firearms technician with the Boston Police Department later tested the weapon and compared the spent shells against a spent shell found near DeJesus’s body. He reported that the shotgun was used in the murder.

Tisdale was arrested for possession of the shotgun. He died in June 1984.

Hamilton, whose real name was Albert Brown, was 32 years old, and was arrested September 17, 1984. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of a .455 caliber Webley handgun.

The next day, he gave a statement to police, which said that on May 23, 1984, he went to see Benny DeJesus, not Efrain, to buy cocaine and discuss selling drugs for him. Brown said they drank a beer and then he went downstairs with Efrain. Brown said that as he walked out the door to leave, two Black men entered the apartment. One was Tisdale, who was holding a shotgun; the other was a man named Ricky Veil. Brown said that Efrain said something to the effect of “You are going to shoot me,” and the gun went off. Brown said he dropped his wallet and ran out the door.

Both Brown and Pope were charged with murder and armed robbery.

They were tried together, in Suffolk County Superior Court, in October 1985, but the judge declared a mistrial after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Their cases were then severed, and Pope’s second trial began on June 23, 1986.

Benny DeJesus testified that he was giving his two young children a bath when Brown and Pope arrived. He said that Efrain met the two defendants at the front door and brought them upstairs to a “drug room” to conduct a deal. After completing the transaction, Brown testified, Efrain left Pope upstairs and walked downstairs with Brown. DeJesus said he heard a scuffle and a shotgun blast and then heard his brother call out for help. Just then, Pope emerged from the drug room and held a gun to Benny DeJesus’s head. He testified that he told Pope, “Oh, no, not this. You’re going to have to shoot.” Brown then came upstairs, DeJesus said, holding the shotgun and told Pope that they needed to leave. As the men left, DeJesus said, Pope scooped up about $15 in change off of a table.

DeJesus testified that he got his kids out of the bathtub and ran down the stairs and saw his brother in a pool of blood. He then drove a short distance to his girlfriend’s house, left the children there, and returned to his house. He tried to move his brother but was unable and called 911.

The firearms examiner testified about the shotgun Tisdale was seen holding at the time of his arrest and said it was the source of the shell found at the crime scene. At the first trial, the prosecution had argued that Pope and Brown acted alone. But the defense presented evidence tying Tisdale to the weapon. At the second trial, the prosecution said Tisdale was an unindicted co-conspirator.

Ineida Andrews, Tisdale’s girlfriend, said that she saw Pope talking with Tisdale for about 15 minutes in May. She also said Brown had visited the apartment she shared with Tisdale later that month.

Several police officers testified about the initial investigation and DeJesus’s statement, including his identification of Brown from the license and of Pope based on a work relationship.

They also testified about evidence of drug dealing found at the house. Before the grand jury, Detective James Curran testified about officers finding paraphernalia. He said it was not drugs but rather a “burn,” which he described as packets made to look like they contained cocaine, but having sugar or some other substance. At trial, Curran testified that the packets at the house were empty. Similarly, Officer William Baker testified that he found papers consistent with the packaging of cocaine but no drugs.

The defense theory was that Benny DeJesus was a drug dealer who had lied to protect himself after his brother was killed. Pope’s attorney, Frank Kelleher, knew that DeJesus had given a statement to Curran and his partner, Detective Peter O’Malley, on the night of the murder. But he had not received a written report of that interview. Curran and O’Malley each testified that no report existed. Kelleher made other requests for previous statements by DeJesus. Prosecutors said there were none, and, in closing arguments, a prosecutor said, “There is no testimony in this case that Benny DeJesus said anything other than what he said on this witness stand.”

On July 2, 1986, the jury convicted Pope of armed robbery and first-degree murder. Because there was no evidence that Pope shot DeJesus or was even on the same floor at the time of the shooting, Pope was convicted under the felony-murder rule, meaning that he was committing a felony while the murder occurred. Pope received sentences of life in prison for the murder conviction and eight to 10 years, to run concurrently, for the armed robbery conviction.

Brown’s new trial began on May 4, 1987. Prior to trial, Brown moved to suppress his statement to police. A judge ruled that the first part of the statement, as written by the detectives, could be introduced, but part of the second section, which was taped, would be excluded, because Brown had asked for an attorney during this section.

Brown was tried under a so-called “joint venture” theory, meaning that he and Pope were equally culpable for the other’s actions. The trial judge had said the joint venture didn’t extend to other persons, but the prosecutor told jurors in his opening statement that Brown and Pope were joined by Tisdale when they went to the Dorchester apartment.

Benny DeJesus’s testimony was largely identical to his testimony at Pope’s trial, and he described the scene in the apartment as he heard his brother shout for help and then saw Brown holding a shotgun.

Over the objection of Brown’s attorney, the state was allowed to introduce the Webley handgun. It had not been introduced at the mistrial or at Pope’s trial. DeJesus saw the weapon for the first time just before he testified. The prosecutor asked him to describe the gun pointed at him on May 23, and DeJesus answered, “It looks just like this one.” DeJesus made a similar identification of the shotgun taken from Tisdale.

After four days of deliberation, the jury convicted Brown on May 26, 1987 of first-degree murder and armed robbery. He was acquitted on the weapons charge, of unlawfully carrying a shotgun.

Pope appealed, mostly on procedural grounds in 1989, but also challenging the constitutionality of the felony-murder rule. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the conviction in 1990.

Brown also appealed, asserting that that prosecutor had excluded potential Black jurors because of their race. He also said the judge erred in allowing the pistol to be introduced into evidence and in the manner in which he allowed the state to use sections of Brown’s statement to police.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Brown’s conviction in 1991.

In 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court narrowed the application of the felony-murder rule and said that defendants convicted under the rule needed to show actual, rather than constructive, malice. Although the judges said the order only applied to cases going forward, Pope began preparing a new appeal asking the courts to extend the ruling retroactively.

As preparation for the appeal, Pope’s new attorney, Jeffrey Harris, asked for Pope’s case file from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. In 2018, he received the file, which contained impeachment evidence against Benny DeJesus that became the core of a motion for a new trial filed in 2020.

The state’s file contained a memo written on May 29, 1984, by Assistant District Attorney Robert Goodale, who had arrived at the shooting just before midnight and then went to the police station as detectives took statements from DeJesus and others. In the memo, Goodale wrote that Officer Flynn talked with him at the crime scene and said that Flynn had seized 10 packets of what he believed to be cocaine from a room on the second floor. At the first trial, Flynn testified that other officers found “something.” He did not testify at the second trial.

With information he received from Detective O’Malley, Goodale wrote that DeJesus said Pope was downstairs with Brown when the shooting took place. DeJesus had testified Pope was upstairs. In addition, the memo said DeJesus told the detective that he ran outside after the shooting to the apartment of Sonya Fernandez, where he called the police. He had testified that he drove to the apartment of a woman named Jeanette Fernandez, his girlfriend, left the children there, and then called 911 after he returned home. The memo made no mention that DeJesus took his children from the house.

According to the memo, Curran interviewed a woman named Marla D., who had dated Efrain DeJesus until February 1984. They had lived together, and she said that Efrain had a violent temper but that she never saw him use or sell cocaine.

The end of the memo said that Detective O’Malley had interviewed Pope after his arrest. “As a result of this interview,” Goodale wrote, “Detective O’Malley now believes that Benny’s account of the incident is not accurate and that Benny was, in fact, involved in the distribution of cocaine.”

Judge Debra Squires-Lee of Suffolk County Superior Court denied Pope’s motion on February 2, 2021. She said there was no conclusive proof that Pope’s trial attorney didn’t have the Goodale memo. (Kelleher had died in 2008.)

Equally important, Judge Squires-Lee said the material was inconsequential. There was no evidence that the police tested any of the material Flynn said he believed to be cocaine, and Pope’s location at the time of the shooting didn’t matter. “Wherever Pope was, a reasonable jury could infer that he was carrying out a pre-arranged plan,” she wrote. Her decision did not address Pope’s request to retroactively apply the new felony-murder ruling.

Pope appealed. Separately, Pope and Brown petitioned the court for release from prison based on their age and the dire health conditions in the state’s prisons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Judicial Court ordered Pope’s release, effective December 9, 2021. He was 68 years old. Brown remained in prison.

In an affidavit filed as part of his appeal, Pope described what he said happened on May 23, 1984, at the apartment. He said that he and Brown went to the apartment and met with Benny in a small room on the second floor. There was cocaine and drug paraphernalia in the room. Pope said he had worked with Benny in the past dealing drugs, and that Brown wanted an introduction so he could get in the game. After the initial meeting, Pope said, Benny wanted to speak with him privately about using Brown, so Benny asked Efrain to take Brown downstairs. He said he then heard the shotgun blast. “We were both startled, both got up, and both went to the top of the stairs, and both saw Efrain’s dead body from the top of the stairs.”

He said DeJesus quickly asked for help in moving his drug operation before the police arrived. Pope declined and said he couldn’t involve himself in that manner. He said DeJesus got angry at him and told him to leave.

“I have no idea what happened on the first floor in the moments before the murder,” he said in the affidavit. “I do know that Floyd did not have a shotgun with him when he was upstairs. I also know that I had no part in planning any kind of murder or robbery of either Efrain or Benny.”

The Supreme Judicial Court vacated Pope’s conviction on June 7, 2022. The court said there was strong circumstantial evidence that the state had failed to disclose Goodale’s memo, and that failure violated Pope’s right to a fair trial. It also declined to rule on the felony-murder question.

“At trial, Benny provided the only percipient account of the shooting,” the court said. “Benny was not simply the Commonwealth’s key witness; he was the linchpin of the Commonwealth’s entire case. The Goodale documents not only exacerbate the inconsistencies already apparent in Benny’s testimony, such as his changing statements about the defendant’s location at the time of the shooting, but also reveal new inconsistencies in his testimony [that are] entirely different in kind.”

On October 24, 2022, Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The motion said the physical evidence in the case could not be found and the investigating homicide detectives had died.

“While Bienvenido DeJesus is available to testify, the Commonwealth cannot adequately investigate or prepare the case for trial without access to the original investigators and investigative materials,” the motion said. Hayden said in a statement: “We had a responsibility in this case to look at all available information and evidence with full consideration of all parties involved, including the victim’s family, the trial witnesses and Mr. Pope. Having done so it is clear to us that moving forward with a new trial is not in the best interest of justice,” Hayden said.

Judge Robert Ullman of Suffolk County Superior Court granted the motion to dismiss that day.

After his release in 2021, Pope told the Boston Globe, “For the period of time that I am out, I’m going to try to do some good. I want to make a contribution to my community in hopes of turning the young away from the road that leads to prison.”

Pope had shared the new evidence that led to his exoneration with Brown and his legal team, which moved for a new trial in 2022. The motion said that the Goodale memo of that first interview with DeJesus made no mention of Brown pointing a shotgun at him.

“Despite direct evidence from Benny about Mr. Hamilton’s participation in the robbery and shooting, including possession of the shotgun in the moments after Efrain was killed, the jury deliberated for four days before returning its verdicts,” the motion said. “Evidence contradicting the Commonwealth’s key witness on a point central to its case against Defendant could have shifted deliberations in his favor, and Mr. Hamilton was therefore prejudiced by its absence. He is entitled to a new trial.”

The state opposed the motion. Among other things, it argued that because the jury acquitted Brown on the weapons charge, he was not prejudiced by the state’s failure to disclose DeJesus’s inconsistent statements about whether Brown pointed a shotgun at him.

Judge Squires-Lee, who had denied Pope’s motion in 2021, granted Brown’s motion on October 24, 2022, the day the state dismissed the charges against Pope, ruling that the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling to grant Pope a new trial applied in Brown’s case. Pending her decision, Brown had been released from prison on June 9, 2022. He was 71 years old.

A judge granted the state’s motion to dismiss the charges against Brown on December 7, 2022.

In October 2023, Brown filed a lawsuit in state court against the State of Massachusetts, seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 5/1/2023
Last Updated: 10/18/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1984
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No