Defense: Utah AG to appeal Utah "innocence" ruling

AP News
Posted: May 26, 2011 1:57 AM
Defense: Utah AG to appeal Utah "innocence" ruling

Defense lawyers for an inmate freed from prison after 17 years said Wednesday the Utah Attorney General's Office has changed course and decided to appeal a judge's ruling overturning her conviction.

Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, did not dispute the defense statement but declined comment, saying only that an announcement was set for Thursday.

Debra Brown was freed from Utah State Prison on May 9 after a judge found the 53-year-old innocent of a 1993 murder. She had been sentenced to life.

Brown was the first inmate exonerated under a 2008 Utah law allowing judges to reconsider convictions on new factual _ not scientific _ evidence.

Judge Michael DiReda found Brown "factually innocent," concluding that she was elsewhere when her longtime friend and employer, Lael Brown, 75, was shot to death in his Logan home, about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. The ruling essentially exonerated Brown of the crime.

Within hours of her release, Shurtleff said that "in the interest of justice and mercy," he wouldn't appeal.

"The time has come to bring closure to Debra Brown and everyone involved in this case," Shurtleff said then in a statement. "She has served 17 years in prison and a judge has found her factually innocent. This was Utah's first case like this and I am convinced these types of challenges will be rare."

On Wednesday night, however, her attorneys with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center said in a statement that the attorney general was going ahead with the appeal.

"After being promised that the state would not appeal, Ms. Brown and her family were beginning to put their long ordeal behind them and to heal," the center said. "Ms. Brown was looking forward to what she described lovingly as her `new, improved, restored life.' The Attorney General's change of mind has left her and her family `broken-hearted.' "

The center did not elaborate and calls by The Associated Press were not returned.

Shurtleff had filed a notice of intent to appeal shortly after the judge's ruling but that was before he issued his statement saying he wouldn't contest the decision. Still, it gave him 30 days to file a formal appeal.

Murphy wouldn't elaborate on any decision, but instead said Shurtleff would address the issue Thursday.