Judge exonerates deaf man wrongly convicted in 1990 sex assault of
Monday, September 27, 2010
By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News
A deaf man wrongly convicted in the 1990 sexual assault of a Richardson girl
is a step closer to freedom after a state district judge cleared his name
Stephen Brodie, 39, pleaded guilty to the crime in 1993 in exchange for a
five-year sentence in the attack on the 5-year-old girl, who was abducted
from her home and forced to perform a sex act.
After his plea, Brodie’s attorneys learned that a fingerprint found on
window matched a suspected serial rapist who was convicted of a similar
crime and that a hair found on the girl’s blanket did not match Brodie or
anyone in the girl’s family.
Brodie said in an interview that he never doubted that he would be
“I could feel God has already set up a time that I would be released,”
Brodie said through an American Sign Language interpreter after the judge
declared his innocence.
If the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals approves today’s ruling by State
District Judge Lena Levario, Brodie will become the third man in Dallas
County cleared without DNA evidence.
Brodie sat almost expressionless through a hearing that lasted more than
three hours today. But when Levario began saying listing items that she
agreed showed he did not commit the crime, Brodie began to smile.
He wiped away tears when Levario found him innocent.
It is unclear whether prosecutors knew about the print match and hair and
did not tell Brodie’s attorney. Police say they turned over all information
to the district attorney’s office. Information that could benefit a
defendant is legally required to be handed over following a 1963 U.S.
Supreme Court decision, Brady vs. Maryland.
Brodie has served his sentence for the sex crime, but he was convicted in
Lamar County for failing to register as a sex offender. Lamar County
District Attorney Gary Young said he would ask a judge to overturn that
conviction so that Brodie could be released from jail.
At today’s hearing, witnesses testified that a comment Brodie wrote to
police on day two of an eight-day interrogation was not a confession.
When asked in writing by police why he abducted and sexually assaulted the
girl, Brodie wrote “I don’t know WHY?”
Amber D.F. Elliott, a lawyer who is also fluent in American Sign Language,
testified that in the deaf community those words mean, “I said, ‘I don’t
know why.’ ”
Elliott said his words should not have been taken as a confession. Levario
There were other problems with the investigation, including the fact that
police told Brodie details of the crime.
Even with police telling him the time of day the crime happened, details of
how the attacker got into the home and what he did, Brodie incorrectly
described the crime to police. Only two of the 45 details Brodie provided
Moore said Brodie was interrogated for 18 hours by Richardson police, and
only half of the time was there a sign language interpreter present. She
said he also confessed to a crime that Dallas police made up when they were
questioning him, a point that would raise doubts about whether his
confession to an actual crime was legitimate.
Brodie’s father, J. Steve Brodie, waited outside the Dallas County Jail this
afternoon for his son to be released. He said he never doubted his son’s
“I knew it,” he said. “I was positive of it, but there wasn’t anything I
could do about it.”
Even so, the father was instrumental in his son’s release, writing letters
to groups all over the country seeking help for his son. The solution came
when the Dallas County district attorney’s office read his letter and began
Brodie would be the second exoneration in Richardson and the second Dallas
County case where a defendant was exonerated after falsely confessing to a
crime. The county also has 20 DNA exonerations – more than any other county
in the nation since 2001 when Texas began allowing post-conviction genetic