In a strictly legal sense, today's not guilty verdict in Dr. Michael Brown's assault trial was probably the right call. Although prosecutors Jane Waters and Nathan Hennigan probably did the best with what they had, they didn't have much.
Rachel Brown had no obvious signs of injury on August 13, 2010, waited over 30 minutes to call 911, wasn't rushed to the hospital, and, in an extremely undramatic 911 call, told the dispatcher that she was just going to go ahead and go see her doctor later that morning. Her physician testified that he gave her a few steroid shots and a muscle relaxer.
The jury knew Brown had previously pleaded no contest to an assault charge; that was all they were allowed to know -- it was strictly so they could be told why a normally misdemeanor charge was enhanced to a felony.
More than anything, we hope that Brown includes Montgomery County District Judge Suzanne Stovall on his long list of people to thank for his freedom. It is only because of Stovall's inexplicable rulings in 2007 that Brown never wound up in prison.
The background: in a truly nuts deal in 2002, Brown got ten years' deferred adjudication for pleading no contest to severely beating his previous wife. As part of his probation, he was subject to drug and alcohol testing. He tested positive for cocaine in 2006 and the Texas Medical Board revoked his license.
Then, in February 2007, Stovall decided that Brown's probation could be lifted if he stayed out of trouble for the following six months. When the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office pointed out that he had tested positive for coke, which was, like, illegal and stuff, Stovall opined that the testing protocols were questionable, and gave him a pass. In August 2007, Stovall lifted Brown's probation and sent him on his merry way.
Had Stovall not lifted the probation, Brown would have remained on probation until January 2012.
Within that timeframe, it appears that Rachel tried to get out from under Brown's grip at least three times.
In 2005, while testifying on Brown's behalf in a custody battle against his previous wife, Rachel admitted that she called 911 on the night of February 22, 2003, and told dispatch that her husband was going to kill her. Apparently, Brown was upset that Rachel had been out late at the Houston Rodeo with a friend. He wound up being escorted from the premises in the back of a police car. Rachel filed for divorce a few weeks after the incident, only to withdraw her petition a few weeks later.
Then, in a 2006 affidavit filed in Harris County District Court as part of a temporary restraining order, Rachel alleged that Brown "assaulted me, spit on me, pulled my hair, and degraded me in front of the children." She also alleged that after one assault -- which occurred when she was nine months pregnant -- she tried to document her bruises with a video camera. But Brown grabbed the camera and "demolished" it, she alleged.
Had that alleged evidence not been destroyed, that might have been the end of Dr. Brown. He was still on probation at the time. But we're guessing Rachel was taught a very harsh lesson that day about what happens to women who try to stand up to Michael Glyn Brown.
But that wasn't the end of it: In 2009, Rachel called 911 and complained that Brown was trying to kill her and her family. It began when she and Brown were snorting cocaine, and then Brown tried to make her swallow some pills, per a police report. Brown told the responding officer that he had no idea what Rachel was talking about, adding that she frequently made up stories.
Although she had no signs of injury, she was taken to Memorial Hermann Southwest for observation.
Houston Police Department Spokesman John Cannon read us some police notes from that incident: "We get a call from dispatch saying that she wanted to speak with an officer at the hospital....The woman says that she needs help and wants to get out of her marriage, but she's afraid to. So the officer at that time advises her to contact family violence investigators in the morning." But there's no record that she ever contacted investigators at the time.
Brown and Rachel are separated, but we wonder if there's going to be another wife, and more 911 calls. And now, Brown has this verdict to point to. What woman in his orbit would ever dream of making a cry for help from the authorities given that knowledge? And what prosecutors would even want to go up against Brown again after this?
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The verdict might be right. But that doesn't mean it's not wrong.
The Taiwanese-animation version of events is here.