Monday, July 4, 2011

Publisher's Weekly :: The Trials of Eroy Brown

The Trials of Elroy Brown
by Michael Berryhill
The Trials of Eroy Brown: The Murder Case That Shook the Texas Prison System

Well documented and unsentimental, Berryhill's account of this infamous 30- year-old murder case that pitted one man's innocent plea against Texas's political might provides a jarring portrait of a once-medieval state prison. Berryhill, chair of the journalism program at Texas Southern University, retells how Eroy Brown, a hapless criminal, was serving 25 years in prison for aiding in a convenience store robbery, stealing $12 and two candy bars. Witnesses tell several versions of how in 1981, while Brown was at the Ellis prison farm near Huntsville, two white Texas prison guards were killed by Brown, who was also shot, but it was claimed that after being threatened, he grabbed one guard's weapon and drowned the other guard, leaving the question of how Brown could have been shot. Brown was charged, and he pleaded self-defense. A court had earlier ruled that Texas inmates were treated with unusual cruelty, supporting Brown's plea, but he faced aggressive prosecutorial maneuvers and willing inmate testimony. After three trials ending finally in acquittal, Brown, now 59, remains in prison for his earlier conviction. Berryhill documents how the old prison rules are no longer in effect, with federal watchdogs looking out for trouble. 16 b&w photos; 3 maps. (Oct.)

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