On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Alfred Dewayne Brown is entitled to monetary compensation from the Texas Comptroller’s Office due to his near decade on death row for a crime investigators later found he did not commit.
Back in 2005, Brown was convicted of murdering Houston Police Officer Charles Clark and sentenced to death. But in 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out Brown’s conviction after a Harris County detective found phone records that corroborated Brown’s alibi, which Harris County prosecutors were aware of but never shared with Brown’s defense team.
Brown was released from prison in 2015, and in 2016 requested monetary compensation of nearly $2 million from the Texas Comptroller since wrongfully imprisoned Texans are entitled to be paid by the state thanks to the Tim Cole Act, a state law passed in 2009 in honor of Cole, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and was later exonerated after he died in prison. State Comptroller Glenn Hagar however denied Brown’s claim, saying that he didn’t qualify because he hadn’t technically been declared “actually innocent” despite having his case thrown out and the charges against him dropped by the county DA.
In 2019, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that an independent investigation by Special Prosecutor John Raley had found Brown to be actually innocent of the killing. Brown’s attorney Neal Manne, who represented him pro bono, used those findings to secure an “actually innocent” ruling from Harris County’s 351st Criminal Court. Even then, Hegar refused to pay Brown, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked that he do so.
Friday’s Texas Supreme Court ruling overrides Hegar’s refusal to give Brown the money he’s entitled to — $80,000 for every year he was in prison in a lump sum plus the same amount spread out over multiple payments for the rest of Brown’s life.
According to the state’s highest court, “Alfred Dewayne Brown’s application checked all the statutory boxes, and as a purely ministerial matter, he is eligible for compensation under the Tim Cole Act,” wrote Justice Eva Guzman.
“We are delighted by the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision,” Manne said in a statement Friday, “which not only directs the Comptroller to compensate Mr. Brown but will protect future exonerees from dishonest and politically corrupt denials of compensation by the Comptroller.”