Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Austin American-Statesman :: The Trials of Eroy Brown

The Trials of Eroy Brown
by Michael Berryhill
The Trials of Eroy Brown: The Murder Case That Shook the Texas Prison SystemBrown case highlights reluctance to parole longtime offenders
By Mike Ward

Eroy Brown, whose acquittal on murder charges involving the deaths of a prison warden and a farm manager in the 1980s shook the Lone Star corrections system to its roots, is coming up for parole again.

Brown is serving 90 years as a habitual criminal for robbing a Waco convenience store of $12 and some candy bars. The graying, almost 60-year-old is serving time in a South Carolina prison because a federal judge thought his safety could not be guaranteed in a Texas lockup. If he's granted parole, he would be sent to a pre-release program in California.

If he's denied parole, he would be released within five years without any supervision under controversial early release policies enacted in the 1970s to ease prison crowding in Texas.

"He got more publicity for (the acquittal) than Christ on the cross," said Houston attorney Bill Habern, who was Brown's lawyer on the murder charges. "The (prison) system still to this day doesn't believe he should have been acquitted. ... What is probably going to happen is called getting even."

Brown's case highlights a long-standing issue with Texas' parole system: a reluctance to parole longtime offenders with high-profile cases, even those who soon will be freed anyway, and those with serious and costly health problems.

Brown is earning liberal credits for good behavior on his sentence, which he would finish by 2017, according to current calculations. At that time, he would be released free and clear, with no supervision.

Brown is among just 4,208 of Texas' 156,000 convicts who are still accruing such credits under old laws, a number that dwindles each year as more are paroled or released.

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