Fingerprint could prove innocence for deaf inmate

Fingerprint could prove innocence for deaf inmate

By JEFF CARLTON Associated Press Writer © 2010 The Associated Press

September 23, 2010

DALLAS — A deaf man convicted of sexual assault of a child — even though the
fingerprint of a convicted child rapist was found at the crime scene — could
walk free after a court hearing next week, his attorney said Thursday.

Stephen Brodie, who has spent 10 years behind bars, is expected to have his
guilty verdict set aside at a hearing Monday. The Dallas County district
attorney’s office confirmed it is supporting Brodie’s claim of innocence in
the 1990 sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in Richardson, a suburb of

Police in Richardson learned that a fingerprint at the crime scene matched a
man who pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl but
continued to insist they’d arrested the right man. That same convicted sex
offender also was the chief suspect in about a dozen similar sexual assaults
of young girls terrorizing the Dallas area in the early 1990s, according to
Dallas police.

“It’s pretty ludicrous,” said Michelle Moore, Brodie’s attorney. “I don’t
really have a good answer for it.”

Richardson Police Chief Jim Spivey did not respond to an interview request
from The Associated Press. His department is fighting an AP open records
request for its files, arguing there is no legitimate public interest in the
case. The request is pending before the state attorney general’s office.

If he is freed, Brodie, 39, would be the second exoneration case in two
years involving Richardson police. The first was Thomas McGowan, who was
freed in 2008 after serving 23 years of a life sentence for a rape he did
not commit.

Although Dallas County has exonerated 20 wrongly convicted people in recent
years through DNA testing — more than any other county nationally and all
but two states — the Brodie case does not involve DNA. Instead, it is the
county’s first potential exoneration involving a false confession, Moore

In 1991, Brodie was a teenager and petty criminal when he was arrested for
stealing quarters from a soda machine at a community swimming pool. During
questioning, the police shifted to a more serious matter: the unsolved
sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl.

A man had entered the little girl’s home through a window and forced her to
leave with her blanket and pillow. He assaulted her in a nearby yard,
according to a police report. There were about a dozen similar unsolved
cases in the Dallas area.

Brodie, left permanently deaf after a bout with spinal meningitis as a
toddler, was questioned for 18 hours over eight days, according to court
records. At least 4 1/2 hours of questioning over four sessions were
conducted without an interpreter.

He eventually confessed to assaulting the little girl, court documents show.
He also repeatedly denied it. In addition, he confessed to a number of
fictitious crimes the detectives made up to test his credibility.

In a recent jailhouse interview, Brodie told the AP he was intimidated and
not savvy enough to request an attorney.

At least one detective did not find him credible, but he was from a
different department. Dallas Detective Steven Nelson questioned Brodie and
concluded he was confessing to made-up crimes and had no knowledge about the
actual crimes. Nelson, in an affidavit, said he informed Richardson police
Brodie was not a suspect.

There was no physical evidence linking Brodie to the crime. Moore said
prosecutors failed to notify Brodie’s lawyer about forensic testing on hair
found at the crime scene that excluded Brodie as the source.

Nonetheless, Richardson police charged Brodie with sexual assault of a child
even though neither a hair found on her blanket nor the fingerprint were a

Brodie’s attorney unsuccessfully fought at trial to suppress his client’s
confession. Figuring a guilty verdict was certain and knowing it was
punishable by up to 99 years, Brodie cut a deal.

He pleaded guilty to assaulting the girl in exchange for a five-year prison
sentence. After serving that sentence, he served two more totaling an extra
five years for twice failing to register as a sex offender.

While Brodie was in prison, Richardson police learned the fingerprint on the
window matched Robert Warterfield, according to court documents and police
records. In April 1994, Warterfield pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of
a 15-year-old girl and received 10 years probation. He eventually was
sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating his probation. He is now free
and works for a yard service in Stephenville, according to the Texas sex
offender registry.

Richardson police say the fingerprint is a coincidence and that Warterfield
“somehow touched the frame when he was wandering around in the neighborhood
four days prior to this offense,” according to police records.

A man who identified himself as Warterfield’s father declined to comment
Thursday or say whether his son has an attorney.

In a 1994 appeal, Brodie’s attorney cited the fingerprint on the window. But
Judge Lena Levario denied the appeal, ruling that Brodie’s confession
outweighed the fingerprint evidence. Levario is the judge presiding at the
hearing Monday.


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