DA releases information on new suspect; Braseel’s family questions motive
Attorneys for Adam Braseel, who has been in prison for more than 10 years, hope new evidence will free their client. Braseel was convicted in 2007 for the 2006 slaying of Malcolm Burrows, in Grundy County, for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, attempt to commit first degree murder, aggravated assault, and assault. He is not eligible for parole until 2063, at the age of 80, effectively making this a life sentence.
“Adam Braseel stands before this court wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit,” attorney Alex Little wrote in a petition filed last week in Grundy County Circuit Court. “Newly discovered evidence flatly destroys the government’s case and makes clear that – had the new evidence been admitted at trial – the jury’s verdict would have been different.”
Braseel’s attorneys say the District Attorney’s Office has released new evidence in the case that points to Kermit Bryson as the murderer. The evidence – a fingerprint at the scene of crime.
Bryson was a violent felon who killed a police officer. He later killed himself when police were closing in on him. In addition, Bryson was dating a woman who was raising a child that Burrows treated like a grandchild.
Bryson, originally from Rhea County, shot and killed Grundy County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Tate and wounded Monteagle police officer Brian Malhoit in 2010, as the two officers attempted to serve a warrant on Bryson. He turned the gun on himself after being surrounded by police. At the time of the shooting of the deputy and the police officer, Bryson was living in a mobile home in Grundy County.
According to the attorneys, eye witnesses made an error when identifying Braseel as the murderer. They assert Braseel and Bryson look similar and drove similar vehicles.
Burrows’ sister, Becky Hill, was at the scene of the murder and described a short and skinny boy with red hair and medium build. She has since passed away.
“Once I seen the picture I knowed him,” Hill testified at Braseel’s 2007 trial. “None of (the others) look like him.”
Bryson and Braseel have similar builds, each weighing about 130 pounds, with fair skin, and red hair. They were within two inches in height.
“Not only was Mr. Bryson the kind of man who would have killed Mr. Burrows in cold blood, but he matched the description given by the eyewitnesses,” Little wrote.
DA denies significance
Prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office deny the significance of the fingerprint. Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain, from the 12th Judicial District, claims finding an uncharged felon’s fingerprint at the murder scene does not justify reopening the case.
“While we have long suspected Mr. Braseel had assistance in committing the murder, Mr. Bryson’s name has never been mentioned,” Strain wrote in a letter to the defense. “Nor does he match the description given at the scene.”
New forensic testing reveals the only identifiable fingerprints at the scene came from two different people – the responding officer and Bryson. A third fingerprint was found on a Sundrop bottle at the scene but was not matched to anyone.
Braseel and his family have claimed his innocence from 2006 and continue to fight for his exoneration. They have faced years of appeals in an attempt to overturn his conviction.
Braseel’s sister, Christina Braseel, has made the fight for her brother’s appeal her life’s work. She questions the timing of the District Attorney’s release of new information in the case.
“Kermit should have been considered all along as a suspect, along with several others,” said Christina on Monday. “But, does that make him a killer? We do not know this.
“Why is this information just getting out when they have had it since 2017?
“So, either the district Attorney’s Office is finally doing their job, or they saw it was time to use their ‘wild card’ to throw us off their tracks.
“We have to hope Judge Justin Angel (currently reviewing Braseel’s case to determine if a new hearing is warranted) sees through the District Attorney’s deception and knows that Adam is innocent of these crimes and at least give him a fair trial,” Christina stated.
Braseel’s sister says she has some major concerns about the District Attorney’s handling of case up to this point.
“I warned the attorneys all along that the DA’s office is capable of unethical behavior. I believe they have set us up. Why else would they give us any help now since they have had it since 2017,” said Braseel in reference to the release of the new suspect’s name.
Christina says she and Adam’s supporters have worked hard since her brother’s conviction to expose that Burrows was a convicted drug dealer and that Kirk Braden, Burrow’s nephew changed his statements throughout the trial, making him “not trustworthy.”
“Adam had no reason for anyone not to believe him,” explained Christina.
Conviction and beyond
2007 – Braseel convicted of the murder of Malcolm Burrows
2011 – An appeal to overturn the conviction was denied
2015 – Judge Justin Angel granted Braseel a new trial and he was released from prison
2016 – Appeals court upheld the conviction and Braseel was returned to prison
2017 – Tennessee Supreme Court denies taking up the case
Braseel is currently awaiting a decision from Judge Justin Angel to determine if he will be allowed a new trial.