Nathan Brown, 40, who was convicted of the attempted aggravated rape of a 40-year-old woman in 1997 solely based on her identification, was released from a state prison yesterday after serving 17 years of a 25-year sentence. DNA testing has proved what Brown has claimed all along: He was not the man who attacked the woman as she returned to the Metairie apartment complex where they both lived, his attorneys say.
“I sincerely ask for you to have mercy upon me when the time for sentencing comes,” Brown wrote in December 1997 to then-Judge Walter Rothschild, the month after a Jefferson Parish jury convicted him. “I understand what I’ve been accused of, but I’m not the man who did this (horrendous) crime. I live a clean and honest life, providing for my daughter and helping my family out.”
Attorney Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project in New York, filed papers in the 24th judicial District Court in Gretna on Tuesday, saying DNA testing clears Brown. She asked Judge Ray Steib to vacate the sentence and order his release. Brown was at least the 15th person exonerated by DNA evidence in Louisiana since 1999.
The Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office declined to comment, too. But according to court records, District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. did not oppose the Innocence Project’s request to test evidence for DNA.
Brown’s attorneys asked for the DNA testing last year. Prosecutors did not oppose the testing, and Steib ordered it to be done on Dec. 16, court records show. The company that performed the testing, Orchid Cellmark, excluded Brown “as the source of the male biological material that was testing,” Potkin wrote.
“Additional testing has identified the source of the biological material as a specific known individual other than Nathan Brown,” she wrote. “Because Nathan Brown is not the source of the male biological material that was tested, he was established by clear and convincing evidence that he is factually innocent of the attempted aggravated rape for which he was convicted.”