Patrick Brown of New Orleans has given his first interview since being wrongfully convicted of raping his stepdaughter.



When Patrick Brown walked out of a New Orleans courthouse last week, even after serving 29 years in prison for rape, according to the victim, he threw his hands in the air — it was a moment of triumph.

But as he tries to reconnect with his family and live in an unknown world after decades of fighting for his freedom, he realizes that his fight is far from over.

According to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, Brown pleaded not guilty in 1994 to raping his 6-year-old stepdaughter in a trial in which the victim did not testify.

Over the past 20 years, Brown’s stepdaughter has repeatedly asked the district attorney’s office under previous administrations to look into the case and prosecute the actual perpetrator, the office said. From prison, Brown filed several motions to have his case reconsidered.

This year, the bureau’s civil rights division, led by current District Attorney Jason Williams, launched an investigation into the victim’s case, found evidence that corroborated her story and asked the court to correct it. On May 8, a judge overturned his conviction, and Brown was immediately released.

Brown remembers feeling the air on his face in those first moments of freedom.

“It was a relief — it felt like the 18-wheeler I’d been carrying around for years had just been lifted off my back,” Brown told CNN Wednesday night in his first interview since his release. . He said that he felt the warmth of everyone who gathered in front of the court building in support of him.

With loved ones by his side, he got into a car and toured the city, which has seen many changes in the last 29 years.

Eleven years into his sentence, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, changing the city’s landscape and sending many of his family members to different states. After that, there were few visitors to Brown.

“We walked down Canal Street and everything was different,” he said, adding that even the appearance of the buildings had changed, with “different bricks.”

The brick was more than changed. Brown was interested in the button on the steering wheel that started the car. The last time he checked, “you had to have the keys to open and start the car.” Now that he’s out, he plans to get his license.

He arrived at his nephew’s house, where the family held a homecoming party for him. There he saw strangers – family members born after Brown was incarcerated. His 29-year-old daughter, Kimberly, was just over a month old when she was incarcerated. She now has an 8-year-old son, Oliver, whom Brown adores.

They caught up, ate and played the card game of pitti-pat, which Brown remembers as his favorite game in New Orleans.

A few days later, Brown flew to Houston, where he now lives with Kimberly and her family.

Before going to prison, Brown had a home with wired phones. His family just gave him an iPhone.

“They included me. The main thing is the iPhone 14 Pro Max,” he said proudly, but he’s still learning how to use it.

Brown was targeted for the first time last week. Not knowing how to check, he looked over his shoulder from time to time. After years of close observation in prison, this feeling does not fade away.

But now he has his own life.

“I have a big old bed that I sleep on and it’s very soft. Oh my god, so sweet. “My body melts into the mattress,” he said.

A few years ago, while in prison, Brown read a recipe for a new lemon chicken in the newspaper. When he arrived at his daughter’s house in Houston, he set out to do just that.

“Real lemon-seasoned chicken breast, mashed potatoes with gravy, muffins, green beans with sausage,” Brown said, noting that you should take a break mid-cooking. “I went outside and then came back to make sure no one was looking over my shoulder.”

There was no one. But several relatives remained with him.

Brown’s mother, 72, stood by her son when he was released after years of estrangement and multiple heart surgeries.

“He told me, ‘I pray every night and ask the Lord to testify of your freedom,'” Brown said. “I could have lost my mother while I was there. God saved it for me.

They celebrated this mother’s day in style. More than 50 family members gathered in Houston and Brown’s mother was absent.

“I danced with her and said, ‘Mom, you’ve still got moves,'” Brown said. He reminded her that he was the one who taught her to dance, she added.

The Browns’ grandson, Oliver, became ill after Mother’s Day, so the family took him to Children’s Hospital.

When Oliver avoided the injection he needed, Brown rolled up his sleeves and let the nurse stick him with the needle first to show him he wasn’t bad.

“He’s a really good kid,” Brown said. “I need to keep her healthy so she can teach me how to use my phone.”

It’s not just a phone. Brown turns 50 in July, and he’s learning to rebuild his entire life — getting a job, a car, and a place of his own. On Wednesday, he received his Social Security card.

“I want to live close to the country. I don’t know about Louisiana. Maybe Alabama, Arkansas, somewhere like that — a long way from a lot of people,” Brown said.

“Now I am almost 50 years old. “I don’t know if I can see myself working until I’m 70, so I’ll have to position myself quickly,” he added.

Brown was released with a small box of personal items, his attorney, Kelly Orians, told CNN. His family started a GoFundMe page to help him rebuild his new life.

Orians, who directs the Decarceration and Community Reintegration Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law, said it could take years for him to receive any compensation for his wrongful conviction.

Under Louisiana law, people who have served time in prison and had their convictions expunged can seek compensation. People who pay $40,000 a year are eligible for up to $400,000.

But for this, the applicant must prove to the court that he is actually innocent, even if the sentence is annulled. This means providing clear evidence that they did not commit the crime of which they were convicted or any related crime based on the facts used in the original conviction.

For Brown, that means once again asking the system that has imprisoned him for decades to make things right, even after he gets his freedom.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has often opposed those requests — two that have crossed his desk since he took office, according to data compiled by the Innocence Project New Orleans court records.

“The current process of allowing state compensation for those wrongfully convicted is cruel, unfair and double-whammy,” Orleans Parish District Attorney Williams told CNN.

“The current attorney general’s office has fought 83% of these cases and lost 100% of the superior judge,” Williams said. “Almost all of these claims are currently contested despite the clarity of the law.

“Morally vindicated people are entitled to compensation for their stolen years; denying or delaying what is legally owed to them is unfair and a waste of taxpayer-funded resources.

Landry, who is running for governor of Louisiana, did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment.

“(The Prosecutor General) used his discretion: “He proved his innocence. We will not make him repeat it. But the state AG’s office had the courage to challenge it by forcing a hearing on it all,” said Zach Crawford, an attorney with the Innocence Project New Orleans.

Brown said he trusted his attorneys to guide him through the application process. He said what he really wants to see, rather than compensation, is an accountable justice system that listens to victims and takes the time to do due diligence.

“They released me for 29 years. “I lost a lot that I can never get back,” Brown said. “I didn’t see (Kimberly’s) first day of school. I didn’t hear the first words he said. I wasn’t there when he graduated, (or) walked down the aisle.

Brown said she wants to know that other families like hers won’t be torn apart.

“There won’t be another Patrick Brown,” he said.

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