View Full Version : New Hearing Set in Deputy's Murder


Goody's Girl
06-24-2002, 07:38 AM
Posted on Fri, Jun. 21, 2002

New hearing set in deputy's murder
Convicted man's confession was coerced, his attorneys say
By WANDA J. DeMARZO AND DANIEL de VISE
ddevise@herald.com




BROWN


A federal judge has ordered a full evidentiary hearing for
Timothy Brown in the 1990 murder of a Broward sheriff's deputy, a
victory for a convicted cop-killer whose attorneys point to a different man
as the more likely culprit.

U.S. District Judge Donald Graham set aside four days in
July on his calendar to hear allegations that Brown, a mentally
challenged teen, confessed falsely to the murder of Deputy Patrick Behan after
detectives beat him and threatened him with the electric chair. The
hearing is set to begin July 24.

Brown's attorneys, notified Thursday of the July hearing,
called it their biggest legal triumph in six years of effort to overturn
the conviction. Legal experts concurred.

''In the world of post-conviction justice, this is a big
thing,'' said Barry Scheck, the New York criminal defense attorney who
has championed the rights of convicted murderers. ``Getting a hearing is
a very big deal.''

Graham's two-paragraph order is dated June 18.

''I'm so happy, so glad that this day is finally coming,''
said Othalean Brown, whose son, now 26, is serving a life sentence for
the murder. ``There just aren't the words to express what I'm
feeling.''

RARE EVENT

Such hearings are rare events; most claims of innocence
from convicted murderers are dismissed on paper without the benefit of a
live hearing.

''The fact that the judge has given Tim Brown a hearing and
set aside four days for his attorneys to make their case is evidence
that he believes there may be some merit to the allegations in their
petition,'' said Steve Drizin, a Northwestern University law professor who
has studied the Behan case.

Graham can allow the conviction to stand or overturn it and
send the case back for retrial, said Celia Ann Terenzio, an attorney
with the Florida attorney general's office.

Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne formally reopened the Behan case,
revisited by The Herald in a series of stories last year, after a
Miami-Dade woman told an informant her husband had killed a deputy and gave
details that matched the 1990 crime. Gov. Jeb Bush ordered an
independent review of the case in April. That investigation could take a full
year.

Prosecutors contend the federal judge lacks the
jurisdiction to hear Brown's claim. They said Graham could still opt to cancel the
hearing before it happens if he agrees that the appeal properly belongs
in a lower court.

''If you go into court claiming innocence, that claim, by
itself, is not a claim that a federal judge can hear,'' Terenzio said.
``The court has to rule on that issue before there is such a hearing.''

TOO EARLY TO PREDICT

Terenzio said it was too early to predict how state
prosecutors will deal with Andrew Johnson, whose incriminating statements
thrust the Behan case back into the public eye earlier this year.

Brown's attorneys counter that Graham does indeed have
jurisdiction on the new claims of innocence.

Behan, a rookie deputy, died Nov. 13, 1990, shot
point-blank in the face while he sat in his patrol car outside a Circle K
convenience store in Pembroke Park.

Broward state attorney prosecutors won a murder conviction
against Brown in 1993 almost solely on the strength of his signed
confession. Accused accomplice Keith King served nine years on a plea
bargain that included several other nonrelated charges.

No scientific evidence linked either youth to the crime,
and no witness took the stand to place Brown or King at the scene.
Several men who gave detectives sworn statements against Brown or King later
said they had been persuaded or pressured to lie.

CASE REOPENED

BSO reopened the case in April 2001 after Gwenda Johnson
told a confidential informant her husband, Andrew Hughray Johnson, had
killed a deputy and had asked her to help him discard the murder weapon.
Andrew Johnson later gave detailed, incriminating statements about the
murder to undercover agents posing as drug dealers.

Jenne, the sheriff, closed the investigation in March and
declared he did not have enough evidence to arrest Andrew Johnson.

Johnson, now 32, contends the statements about Behan were
lies concocted to impress men he thought to be drug dealers. Gwenda
Johnson has recanted.

The hearing will likely stretch past four days and could
become a virtual replay of Brown's original trial, but with a new focus.

Brown's public defenders will make a case that the 1993
jury would not have convicted him if they had known about Andrew Johnson.

''This is what we've been waiting for, and we are grateful
that we will have the opportunity to present Tim's innocence,'' said
Tim Day, one of Brown's federal public defenders.

DEFENSE ARGUMENTS

The defenders contend there is more to link Johnson to the
crime than prosecutors ever had against Timothy Brown:

Johnson had a potential motive. He had been fired from a
jail guard job at BSO after a deputy named Brian Montgomery reported
him for impersonating a patrol officer; Behan was working for Montgomery
on the night he died. Prosecutors never suggested a logical motive for
Brown as the killer.

Johnson gave a detailed account of Behan's murder to
undercover agents, including the fact that a single shot was fired and that
the deputy raised his hands defensively.

Although she later recanted, Johnson's wife provided an
independent and credible account of the murder.

While there is no telling how Graham might rule, his public
comments have indicated an interest in hearing Brown's claims.

''If there is information out there that someone is
incarcerated unjustifiably, I'm concerned,'' Graham said at a hearing in
March.

``This matter needs to be resolved expeditiously.''