After his release [when his 1974 conviction was overturned because of false testimony from a government witness], Brown took the name Shabaka and frequently spoke out against the injustice and finality of the death penalty, including to a U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee in 1993.
Richard Blumenthal, now a U.S. senator from Connecticut, represented Brown on appeal as a volunteer attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He was in private practice at the time.
Blumenthal said in 1987 that the Brown case changed his view of the death penalty "because it provided such a dramatic illustration of how the system could be fallible and cause the death of an innocent person."
Sen. Blumenthal was right: A fallible system can indeed cause the death of an innocent person. But not in the way Blumenthal (who has been unavailable for comment) would have us believe.
Joseph Green Brown refused to run from his troubled past. He'd tell audiences he was only hours from being executed on Florida's death row. He'd talk about how an appeals court overturned his rape and murder convictions in 1986 and how he walked out of prison a free man -- with a goal of ending the death penalty.
Now Brown is back in jail, this time facing first-degree murder charges in the death of the woman he married 20 years ago, Mamie Caldwell Brown of Charlotte.
"This is just horrible," said Sherry Williams, Mamie Brown's aunt. "From what we could tell, he was sweet and caring. And now this? We are all in shock. How could this happen?"
Well, Ms. Williams, how this could happen is that the system lost its nerve and released a man who was almost surely factually guilty. Procedure 1, substance 0.
And sure enough, the system's fallibility did indeed result in the death of an innocent person. But it did so in the usual way, notwithstanding what the abolitionist-tilted press would have you believe. That is, an innocent person was killed, not because the system wrongly executed a prisoner, but because it wrongly failed to do so.