Jurich: ‘I am Danny Brown’Written by Stacy Jurich | | email@example.com
Last fall I had the fortune of working with inspirational and dedicated individuals during the Green Party City Council campaigns. Many have remained close friends, an extended family even. One of them is Danny Brown. He was the Anita Rios for Toledo campaign’s most tireless volunteer, going door to door more than anyone else on the team. Brown would crack me up, him on one side of the street and me on the other, shouting “City council needs first aid!” as he walked between houses. He has an extremely deep-rooted desire to see politics move beyond the two party system and personally understands how corrupt and unaccountable politics goes hand-in-hand with a failed criminal justice system.
In 1982, a few years before I was born, Brown was wrongfully convicted of a murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2001, he was released based on DNA results that cleared him of the crime. DNA from the victim was actually matched to another man, Sherman Preston, who at the time of the DNA testing was already in prison for similar murders.
When I first met Brown, he was introduced as “the guy who stands in front of the courthouse,” wearing a placard draped over his shoulders defending his case. On first impression it was evident that Brown is an innocent human being, both literally and figuratively. He is light hearted with good intentions, easy to get along with and happy to meet new people.
As I spent more time with him, I would hear bits and pieces of his case and how the evidence stacks in his favor.
It is humbling to know Brown and his courage and strength to rise above his situation, maintaining a stable mind and faith in truth and justice. I can not imagine the mental, physical and emotional anguish that my friend went through during the years and years in prison. I get the sense that time would go by really, really slow and it would be easy to dwell every minute on how he had been wronged.
However, Brown upholds his dignity and self-respect. He never speaks words of hate, resentment or revenge.
Brown has been fighting to prove his innocence since the beginning. He even rejected a plea bargain that would have released him after one year. During his 19 years in prison, Brown enabled and empowered himself by researching his case, dissecting the trial, learning legal terminology and processes and taking college courses.
In 2002, after his release, he filed a wrongful imprisonment suit. Still, more than ten years after his release from prison, he has not given up and become a bystander and a victim, but fights for his exoneration. He educates people about his case and the failed political structure that allows such injustices to exist.
For reasons unknown to me and that cannot be justified, Brown has not received an apology or compensation for the years he spent behind bars. Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates refuses to exonerate Brown and yet will not retry him. His case now rests in limbo, and without public pressure and continuous legal action, it will remain. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” according to William Gladstone.
We live in a society where it is statistically unlikely that I, a middle-class, female Caucasian (even though my skin is “brown”), would be wrongly charged with a murder. I may never be in Brown’s shoes, but I can truly feel the pain from his heart and the longing for relief and justice in my own. I am Danny Brown.
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because
I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because
I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
— Pastor Martin Niemöller
There will be a Rally for Justice for Danny Brown Downtown 8 a.m. March 16 at Third Space, 137 N. Michigan.
Signs will be provided. The demonstration will close by encircling the Lucas County Courthouse at 9 a.m.
From 3-5 p.m. March 17, there will be a fundraiser to help Brown publish his memoirs. This is also at Third Space, and will include a screening of Brown’s story, “A Will to Live,” appetizers and a Q-and-A. Suggested donations are $5-$100.