Utah Woman Exonerated through Non-DNA Evidence


On Friday, the Utah Supreme Court decided to uphold a district court ruling that found Debra Brown “factually innocent” of murder. This decision makes Brown’s exoneration official, in spite of the Utah Attorney General’s appeal in 2011, and it means that she will not serve any more time in prison. The Deseret News reports:

“We affirm the post-conviction court,” Chief Justice Matthew Durrant wrote. “We hold that a post-conviction determination of factual innocence can be based on both newly discovered evidence and previously available evidence.”

Debra Brown spent 17 years in prison for the 1993 murder of her boss and family friend, Lael Brown, who she discovered dead in his home from three gunshot wounds.

The Rocky Mountain Innocence Project

took on the case in 2002.

Debra Brown’s attorney, Alan Sullivan, has said previously there were others who should have been investigated in Lael Brown’s death and that the case against his client was a circumstantial one. He said the notion that Debra Brown was the only one who could enter the home without forcing entry was irrelevant, because the back door of Lael Brown’s home didn’t even lock properly.

Brown is now eligible for compensation from the state of Utah. She is the first person to be exonerated through a 2008 law passed by the Utah Legislature that allows for non-DNA innocence claims.


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