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10 Innocent Black People Who Were Almost Executed for Crimes They Didn’t Commit


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Clarence Lee Brandley, Texas

Clarence Lee Brandley was sentenced to death in 1981 for raping and murdering a 16-year old white girl at Conroe High School in Texas. At the time of the murder, Brandley was the only Black employee at the small-town high school, where he worked as a janitor. According to an investigative report for Texas Monthly called Guilty Until Proven Innocent, the officer interviewing both Brandley and his white co-worker stated, “One of you two is going to hang for this.” Indicating Brandley, the officer continued, “Since you’re the n****r, you’re elected.”

The racism spilled into the courtroom when a lone juror who refused to convict Brandley was harassed, threatened and reportedly called a “n****r lover.” Brandley was convicted at the second trial. Six years later, a new witness came forward claiming to know who the real murderer was. That was not enough to grant Brandley a new trial. It would take another year, an intervention from the FBI, fundraising efforts by civil rights activists — including the Rev. Jew Don Boney — and an investigation from private investigator James McCloskey before Brandley was granted a new trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals took another 14 months before hearing the new trial, and the prosecutor added another 1o months with appeals before Brandley was finally exonerated in 1990.

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