Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is urging the Texas Supreme Court to side with a wrongfully convicted man who’s fighting top Republican leaders over state compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.
In an amicus letter filed Thursday, Perry, who resigned last fall as U.S. energy secretary, gave his opinion on the case of Alfred Dewayne Brown, who appealed to the Supreme Court after the Texas Office of the Comptroller denied his request for compensation for the 12 years he spent on death row.
Read more: The Persecution of Alfred Brown: Texas AG, Police Conspired to Punish Innocent Man
Perry’s letter, written by Austin attorney Bill Jones, said that while he was Texas governor for 15 years, Perry’s reputation was tough on crime. But that does not extend to “tolerating instances of unjust imprisonment,” said the letter.
Perry signed the Tim Cole Act, the Texas law that provides for state compensation for people who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned.
Brown, who was falsely accused of murdering a Houston police officer, but declared innocent in 2019, is seeking compensation under that law. The comptroller denied that request, casting doubt on the legal process that Brown followed to reach his actual innocence finding.
Read more: Houston Lawyer Fighting Denial of Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation for Innocent Client
“Gov. Perry has followed Dewayne Brown’s turmoil ever since Brown was released from prison in 2015. The governor recoiled at the prosecutorial misconduct that deprived Brown and his lawyers of the exculpatory evidence that would ultimately set him free,” the letter said.
Dan Rizzo, the prosecutor in Brown’s case, is facing an attorney discipline lawsuit for allegedly withholding exculpatory evidence. Rizzo has denied the allegations and claimed he never saw the evidence in question.
Read more: Houston Ex-Prosecutor Faces Discipline for Allegedly Withholding Evidence in Alfred Dewayne Brown Case
Perry’s letter said Brown is a classic example of why the state passed the Tim Cole Act. He deserves compensation, it said.
“Brown has been denied compensation based on the comptroller’s second-guessing of a criminal judge’s exercise of jurisdiction. This is not how the act the governor signed was designed to operate,” said the letter.
The courts have the power to declare actual innocence, and here, both the prosecutor’s office and a criminal court did that. An executive official shouldn’t be allowed to override the innocence declaration, the letter said.
It added, “No amount of money can restore the years of liberty Brown has lost. But compensation can provide one small measure of redress for a man who bore the brunt of a wrongful conviction.”
Perry’s attorney, Bill Jones of The Jones Firm, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Comptroller spokesman Kevin Lyons declined comment. Kayleigh Date, spokeswoman for the Texas Office of the Attorney General, which represents the comptroller’s office in Brown’s appeal, declined comment.
Susman Godfrey partner Neal Manne, who represents Brown pro bono, said he knew about a speech Perry gave a business group four years ago in which the ex-governor discussed Brown’s case.
“We were delighted that Gov. Perry felt strongly enough about the issue and the justice of Mr. Brown’s position that he was willing to communicate his views to the Texas Supreme Court,” Manne said.
All of the high court justices know Perry, who wrote the letter as the then-governor who signed the Tim Cole Act, he said.
“My hope is that the court will give appropriate consideration to Gov. Perry’s strong statement that the comptroller is not following the requirements of the Tim Cole Act here,” Manne said. ”It should have covered and does cover a case like Mr. Brown’s.”