John Brown, a 51-year-old man from Nevada whose 1992 Dallas County murder conviction was overturned recently by a federal judge in Little Rock, walked free Wednesday after being imprisoned in Arkansas for 26 years.
On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson gave the state 30 days to either recharge Brown with the intention of retrying him or release him within 30 days. Wilson reviewed Brown’s conviction at the request of the Midwest Innocence Project and determined that his conviction in the murder of a 78-year-old Fordyce woman, Myrtle Holmes, was based on a false confession by a mentally limited co-defendant and the use of informants whose potential motives weren’t revealed to jurors.
The state is appealing Wilson’s order, but Wilson refused the state’s request to keep Brown behind bars while the appeal is pending, noting it could take two years.
Brown was released around noon Wednesday after a hearing in the Dallas County courthouse in Fordyce.
He described the moment as "surreal" and said he plans to meet up with his fiancée before traveling to see family in Las Vegas. He got cheeseburgers with his lawyers after he was freed.
Dallas County prosecutor John Thomas Shepherd said his office is gathering original case files and evidence so he can decide whether to retry the case.
"I believe that my office owes it to the victim and to her family to fully look at this and be ready to retry this if we feel like it's warranted," Shepherd said.
One of Brown's lawyers, Erin Cassinelli, said she believes there is no evidence that would warrant another trial.
"We feel that an objective, fair review will very obviously result in John Brown maintaining his freedom," Cassinelli said. "We now know who committed this crime, and he is in prison and we're glad. That is justice. The family deserves to know what happened and now we finally know."
Jimerson, who is still in prison, is also appealing to have her conviction overturned.
Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.