KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man who was freed last year after spending 12 years in prison for a killing he says he didn’t commit should be exonerated of the crime, the Tennessee Board of Parole determined.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday to make that recommendation to Gov. Bill Lee in the case of Adam Braseel, who was charged in the 2006 bludgeoning of Malcolm Burrows, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The vote came after Braseel’s legal team argued his innocence in the killing during video conference hearing that lasted almost seven hours.
No one witnessed Burrow’s killing along a rural road in Grundy County, but his sister told authorities a red-headed man lured her brother away and returned to beat her so severely she suffered brain damage.
The red-headed Braseel was convicted of murder despite no physical evidence tying him to the scene and sentenced to life in prison. He was freed for 10 months in 2015 when a judge overturned his conviction based on a lack of evidence and granted him a new trial. The state Court of Appeals overruled that decision and sent Braseel back to prison.
Last year, Braseel was freed again after a retested fingerprint and other evidence pointed to a red-headed man named Kermit Eugene Bryson, who killed himself in 2008 as authorities tried arresting him for killing an officer.
Braseel left prison after entering an Alford plea to aggravated assault. The plea allowed him to maintain his innocence but left him with a felony on his record.
The governor is the only one with the power to change that. Although the board recommended Lee exonerate Braseel, the decision ultimately is left in his hands.
“This particular nightmare is a singular one brought about against Mr. Braseel,” Braseel’s attorney, Alex Little, told the Board of Parole. “He is seeking today for this board and ultimately for the governor to end that nightmare and clear his name.”
Circuit Judge Justin Angel, Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady and Sheriff Clint Shrum all spoke in support of Braseel’s bid for exoneration. They said they mistakes were made in the investigation and that Braseel is innocent.
“It’s overwhelming again for me to sit here and have to hear this again and again and again,” Braseel told the seven members of the board shortly before they voted. “I’m happy to say that I know I’m not going to ever worry about if I’ll ever come home completely innocent. Now, my worry is whether y’all simply do the right thing and make this recommendation for me to be exonerated. It’s out of my control.”