This Week in Innocence


The Sun-Sentinel tells the remarkable story of Barney Brown, convicted at the age of 14, and who then served 38 years in prison for a robbery and rape he didn't commit.

Stopped by police in Palm Beach County, Brown and his friends were arrested and jailed in connection with a 1969 rape and robbery. He was brought to Miami-Dade County, tried in juvenile court and acquitted — the victim couldn't identify him despite numerous lineups and an appearance on the stand.

Somehow, he was put on trial again, despite the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy. Brown didn't know the law and didn't know to ask why it was being ignored. This time he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. It would be 38 years before [Judge] Marin would recognize the injustice.

Emphasis mine. These cases just keep churning up new ways to inspire outrage. It's just stunning that after an acquittal in juvenile court the prosecutor merely moved on to try Brown for the same crimes as an adult. And no one noticed. You write about these stories enough, and you tend to get a bit jaded. This one is still jarring.

And it gets better: At the time of his conviction, Florida allowed the death penalty in certain rape cases. This was a black kid accused of robbing and raping a white woman. So push on. The prosecutor asked for a death sentence. The jury voted 7-5 to spare his life. It then took nearly 40 years for the criminal justice system to acknowledge what had happened.

More on Brown here.