Was the wrong man convicted in 2007?
For the past eight years, Adam Braseel has been incarcerated for a crime that that his defense argues may have been impossible for him to commit. A look at the timeline of events surrounding the murder of Malcolm Burrows and the attack on his sister in 2006, witness statements, and a lack of evidence makes one wonder if the wrong man was convicted. In August, Judge Justin Angel agreed that the original findings may be in question, and granted Braseel a post-conviction appeal.
On November 9, 2007, Braseel was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, attempt to commit first degree murder, aggravated assault, and assault. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder conviction, and sentences for the other charges were to be served concurrently. He would not be eligible for parole until 2058, effectively making this a life sentence.
Next week, Braseel’s defense team will present his case before Judge Justin Angel in a post-conviction appeal. The question? Was the wrong man convicted in the murder of Malcom Burrows and the assault of Becky Hill?
In 2006, Braseel held a steady job with UPS, loved spending time with his family and friends, and was passionate about four-wheeling and being outdoors. He was involved in many church activities, and had been a faithful Christian for over three years. On Friday, January 6, of that year, he headed up the mountain from his home in Estill Springs to meet friends and go riding.
According to testimony, Braseel spent the night with Charles Partin and they rode in the gulf all day Saturday. He left Partin’s house on Saturday evening between 9 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. and headed to the home of Josh Seagroves.
On the way to Coalmont, he stopped at Sweeton Hill Church to talk to Krista King and her boyfriend, Jake Baum. After about 10 minutes, he continued on to the Seagroves’ home, arriving at 10 p.m. He spent the night there and went riding all day on Sunday.
Police reports show that during the same period, Burrows was murdered at his home, and his sister was attacked. A 911 call came in to the dispatch center at 9:52 p.m., on Saturday, January 7, reporting a crime in Tracy City. Upon arriving, law enforcement determined Becky Hill had been attacked inside of the Burrows’ residence. Her brother, Malcolm Burrows had been killed outside the home.
Questions Without Answers
Considering witness statements that corroborate Braseel’s whereabouts on the night of January 7, 2006, it seems hard to imagine that he had time to even drive to the Burrows’ residence in Tracy City, much less attack Hill, kill Burrows, and destroy any evidence of his being at the location.
According to testimony, after returning from riding on Sunday, Seagroves’ mother informed Braseel that Burrows had been murdered. Then, she told him he was a suspect in the murder. Braseel was shocked, as he had been with friends over the course of the last two days and could account for his whereabouts.
Court records state that while in the hospital, Hill was shown a photo of Braseel. Eight days later, she identified him from a photo lineup consisting of men with large builds, black hair, and beards. Adam is 5’5”, 130 pounds, with red hair. The picture of Braseel was from his high school driver’s license, he did not currently wear earrings. At a preliminary hearing, Larry Davis, with the TBI, stated he would attempt to get people resembling the suspect for a lineup, something not done in the Braseel lineup.
As soon as Braseel heard about the photo lineup, he went to authorities in an attempt to resolve the matter. He thought it was a case of mistaken identity. He had previously turned over his cap, jacket, boots, and car to police during an interview at the Seagroves’ home. When he went to the authorities, he was fingerprinted, released, and returned to work at UPS.
During the trial two years later, glaring inconsistences in the testimony of Hill came to light. According to testimony, she told the jury she had not seen a man who came into her home on January 7, 2006, but later said the same man who was there earlier was the one that attacked her. Her son, Kirk, testified that the man threw a fire extinguisher at him, and he retaliated by hitting him on the cheek (Braseel had a small cut on his cheek when interviewed by authorities on Sunday, January 8, 2006, attributed to an accident at UPS. The wound had scabbed over and was thought to be older than one day). Braseel’s lawyer stated that the identification of Braseel by Hill and her son was based on suggestion.
No evidence was ever found to link Braseel to the crime scene. Especially telling is the lack of DNA evidence one would suspect after an assault and a murder. Specialists testified the crime could not have occurred without any DNA evidence, leaving the question of who would have the experience to clean up a crime scene.
Even more questions have come to light concerning the statements of neighbors about the car that was seen at the crime scene.
A New Look at the Evidence
After reviewing the discrepancies in the original trial, it was determined that Braseel deserved an appeal hearing. This comes as a relief to his family, who have stood beside him for the past eight years.
“I have studied this for eight years,” says Christina Braseel, Adam’s sister. “I don’t think he is innocent. I know he is innocent.”
Christina says she has dedicated the last eight years of her life to the possibility of Adam being granted a new trial. To see her hard work, and work of many others, come to fruition, is gratifying.
“I would like to thank so many people who have called to check on Adam and supported him through our website, www.exonorateadambraseel.com, and through other means.”
Adam is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville. He has not let his time there go to waste. Not a big public speaker, Braseel is now leading a prison ministry.
“He has brought other prisoners to Christ,” says Christine. “He started his ministry by just talking to other prisoners, and they saw how he lived his life. He is true to what he says.”
Braseel’s appeal begins Tuesday, November 17, at the Grundy County Courthouse. The possible outcomes include exoneration, the laying aside of the case to consider new evidence presented, and a denial of the post-conviction appeal.