In October, the Innocence Blog highlighted the case of Sherman Brown, a 69-year-old man serving a life sentence for a 1969 murder of a young boy in Virginia. Evidence strongly indicates that the assailant also sexually assaulted the boy’s mother. The Innocence Project had filed a writ of actual innocence stating that DNA testing excluded Brown as the assailant—therefore pointing to his innocence—and was pursuing additional DNA testing to conclusively exclude the victim’s husband. Last week, preliminary lab results of those tests came back, excluding the husband as the source of DNA, reasserting the argument that a man other than Brown or the victim’s husband was the source of the DNA left behind in the victim.
In 1969, the victim was struck unconscious when a man came into her home, asked her to have sex with him and she refused. After the attack, she was found on her couch no longer wearing her underwear, and her 4-year-old was discovered in his bed, stabbed to death.
DNA testing of a vaginal smear slide created in connection with the investigation into the attack excludes Brown as the contributor of the DNA, pointing to his innocence. At the time that the writ of actual innocence was filed in October, Brown’s attorneys knew with 98 percent certainty that the woman’s deceased husband was also not the contributor of the DNA. The results from the new tests now offer conclusive evidence that another man altogether was the source of the DNA identified on the crime scene evidence.
DNA samples were “obtained from an old tobacco pipe that belonged to [the victim’s deceased husband] and from a living son,” reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Last week, attorneys at the Innocence Project, in collaboration with attorney Steven Rosenfield, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, filed a request with the Virginia Supreme Court for a 30-day extension in proceedings in order to have time to file formal laboratory findings. The Court granted the request. A written laboratory report with the results should arrive from the lab later this month.
Brown’s attorneys also argue that Brown’s conviction was based on evidence which has now been proven to be unreliable and to have no scientific validity.