Utah Woman Freed in Non-DNA Case
Today, a Utah judge ruled a woman factually innocent of a murder she was convicted of in 1995, according to the Deseret News.
Debra Brown was the first Utah inmate to use a new state law that allows for non-DNA innocence claims. After a six-day evidentiary hearing, the judge determined she could not have committed the crime for which she was convicted.
In 1993, Brown discovered her boss and friend murdered with three gunshot wounds in his head. Police reports showed there was no sign of forced entry and that Brown was the only person with access to the victim’s home.
Brown, who was represented by the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project, always maintained her innocence. This case is the first of its kind to be filed after the passage of a 2008 law that allows for such a hearing when any new evidence in a case is found, including non DNA evidence.
For Brown, the evidence was her alibi. At her murder trial, the prosecution stated that the victim was murdered on the morning of Saturday, November 6, 1993, a day before Brown discovered the body. But based on testimony from the medical examiner, 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda said that it was most likely that Brown actually died sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m.
DiReda wrote that the facts show that Debra Brown’s whereabouts were “firmly established” from 10 a.m. Saturday through Sunday morning.
Under the factual innocence statute, DiReda had to find that there was new evidence in Debra Brown’s case that met the clear and convincing standard, not the legal innocence standard, which only requires that there be reasonable doubt.
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