Man Wrongly Imprisoned for 12 Years Gets Released


The Miami Herald

Tony Brown stands as a free man for the first time in 12 years, on October 2016.

Daniela Parra Del Riego, Staff Writer

On Oct. 16, Andre Gonzalez (commonly known as Tony Brown), was freed from jail. Brown was convicted 12 years ago for a shooting that murdered one person and critically injured another. This incident occurred near a North Miami-Dade nightclub twelve years ago and has since been forgotten. The young journalists at Northwestern University re-investigate cases where the defendant may be innocent, and after investigating further, were able to prove Brown’s innocence. The students interviewed inmates who revealed that the killer was the DJ at the club and not Brown.

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If we have a broken legal system, we will never be effective as a nation. I am glad that the truth came out, albeit a bit late.”

— senior Alain Perez

The night of the event, one person was murdered and another was shot, left in critical condition. After the victim was transported to a hospital where they received appropriate treatment, Miami-Dade County police began their investigation. The survivor described the shooter as a black man with facial hair that was around five foot and six to eight inches tall. Once they returned to the scene of the shooting, the police also found a skull cap across the street, and it had hair which matched the DNA of Tony Brown.

After a line up nine months after the shooting, the now-recovered victim claimed that Brown was the perpetrator, despite his evident lack of facial hair. To see if he could grow facial hair, he was placed in carefully watched solitary confinement; even after a week when he could not grow the hair, the case did not look favorably upon him.

His girlfriend was his only alibi, which was not very convincing to the jury. She claimed that they left the club after they were told that their friend was shot. They drove to the scene together, and once they realized that the victims were not people that they knew, they left the scene and called the police. Because the call was nine months prior to the line-up, it was untraceable, making the girlfriend’s testimony unreliable to the jury.

At the original trial, Brown was found guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder, and armed robbery. He was given a life sentence, and when a Miami-Dade judge granted a request for a second trial, the appeals court denied it.

This all occurred 10 years ago.  After extensive research, the students realized that Arnold Clark, the head of security, was on the scene when the police arrived. Clark had already been imprisoned, so the students interviewed him in jail. He witnessed the shooting and named DJ Black as the man standing over the bodies after the shots were fired. He was the DJ at the club nearby, and after learning of this new information, Brown’s lawyer motioned for a new trial.

“I have been a member of highlights for two years, and this case just goes to show how important journalism is in the world. When we have properly informed citizens, we have effective democracies,” sophomore Arianna Peña said.

The case was presented to Judge Miguel de la O, who carefully analyzed the evidence presented to him. Clark claimed that he did not come forward previously in fear of Black possibly retaliating because they worked together. The state attorney then brought in Black to testify, who denied allegations of having shot anyone. Tony Brown’s new trial was called to order, under the Florida statute that calls for a retrial if evidence that might convince the jury of another decision is presented.

Soon after, the state of Florida decided to drop the charges. Tony Brown is now a free man after the court deemed him innocent, all because of the power of journalism.