Adam Braseel accepts Alford plea in murder case
After 12 years behind bars, Adam Braseel is now a free man. On Friday, in a surprise move by the District Attorney’s Office, Braseel was offered the opportunity to make an Alford plea, which he accepted, and was immediately released from the State’s custody by Judge Justin Angel.
Braseel, now 36, was convicted of the 2006 murder of Malcolm Burrows and attack on Becky Hill, by a Grundy County jury in 2007. He has spent his years since entering prison denying his guilt and, in the process, developed a huge base of supporters who filled the courtroom on Friday, for what began as a post-conviction hearing before Judge Angel to determine if new evidence presented by the defense warranted a new trial in the case.
Almost three hours into Friday’s hearing, after two witnesses for the defense and one witness for the prosecution took the stand, District Attorney Steve Strain asked for a short break. Judge Angel granted the request for a 10-minute recess which then turned into several hours as the D.A.’s Office presented the option for an Alford plea to Braseel and his lawyers.
An Alford plea is a best-interest plea. By taking the plea, Braseel did not admit guilt to the crimes with which he was charged and previously convicted. He did acknowledge that enough evidence to convict him on a lesser charge of aggravated assault existed. The aggravated assault charge is a Class C Felony.
Braseel told the Herald on Tuesday, that by making the Alford plea, he was able to come home, in his words, “an innocent man with a felony.”
“I took the deal to secure my physical freedom and fight my case on the outside,” explained Braseel. “Until I am exonerated completely, justice won’t be served.”
Twelve years behind bars for a crime he did not commit might leave a man bitter. However, Braseel sees it differently. A humble Braseel says he chose to live his best day, every day, during the twelve years he was incarcerated and that he was sustained by his faith in God.
“I give glory to God for my time in prison and my release,” said Braseel, referring to what he said is the maturity he gained while incarcerated and the joy he is now experiencing after being granted his freedom.
The hearing on Friday was the second time Braseel’s murder conviction has been dismissed. In 2015, after a post-conviction hearing for Braseel held in Rhea County, Judge Angel made the decision to overturn the conviction and grant Braseel a new jury trial. Braseel was released on bond at the time. However, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals over-ruled the judge’s decision and Adam was returned to prison. Friday’s hearing was Braseel’s last-ditch effort to secure a new trial within the Tennessee court system. His Alford plea on Friday marks the end of the murder case.
It is not, however, the end for Braseel. He plans to fight for his exoneration and help others along the way.
“I have always said, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody,” said Braseel, referring to his wrongful conviction.
Going forward, he will fight for reform. Even if it involves stepping out of his comfort zone. And, he encourages others to come forward when they see in-justice.
Braseel credit many people with his freedom, including his sister Christina Braseel and “just” Judge Justin Angel, in addition to others who have proclaimed his innocence.
Christina has made it her life’s mission for the past 12 years to secure her brother’s freedom and has spent countless hours working to see that “justice was served” and her brother was exonerated.
“My sister’s sacrifice – her giving up everything to fight to prove my innocence – I will always be indebted to her for saving my life,” said Braseel. “She is a warrior.”
Besides his sister and Judge Angel, Braseel would like to acknowledge his gratitude to all who believed in him.
“I want to thank those who never stopped fighting with us, you truly are difference makers, but the fight is not over,” stated Braseel.
For more on the murder of Malcom Burrows and the case’s history, please visit www.grundycountyherald.com.