Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Byron K. Brown's Story


Byron K. Brown, 48, is incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, NY, serving a life sentence for 1st degree murder. Byron has been incarcerated since 1998, and claims that the shooting was accidental. Here is his story in his own words, sent to me in June of this year.




Dear Readers,

Hello, my name is Byron K. Brown. I am 48 years old, born in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had moved to Long Island, NY in 1994, seeking better opportunities in the entertainment business. Like most troubled youths I came from a broken family structure. I grew up in an impoverished community, influenced by gang culture and addicted to alcohol and drugs. I was uneducated and did not make the best decisions in life, which ultimately resulted in my being convicted of several criminal offenses before the tender age of 25. Please allow me to explain an unfortunate tragedy that had occurred in my life.

STATEMENT OF FACTS:

On April 4, 1997, at approximately 4 AM, Douglas Ury, a driver for Orange and White Taxi of Huntington Station delivered Byron Brown, a bicycle and a four-foot-long cardboard box to 319 44th Street, Copiague, NY. Brown intended to stay there that night with his girlfriend, Tina Robinson. Out in the street he encountered Tina’s aunt, Lisa Cornelius, who had been partying. Brown told Cornelius that the box contained either a rifle or shotgun.

On Saturday night, April 5, Deroy Collins and Charles Arnott sat side by side dispatching taxi cabs for Via Taxi in Copiague, NY. At approximately 8:45 PM, Collins took a phone call requesting a pickup at Drexel Heritage, a furniture store on Route 110, a.k.a. Broadhollow Road in Farmingdale, NY. Collins dispatched driver Thomas White to make the pickup. A short time later, both Collins and Arnott heard White call on the radio and say “Deroy, I am dying.” He went on to say he was shot and was on 42nd. Street in Copiague.

Meanwhile, at approximately 9:30 PM, Carmine Rosales was awakened by a loud noise from the front of her house at 222 41st. Street, Copiague. She saw a black man, approximately five foot six inches tall, wearing a black jacket and red sweatshirt get out of the driver’s side rear door of a taxi cab and run toward Prospect Street. Her chain link fence and part of the neighbor’s was knocked down by the taxi.

Police Officer Brian Karp arrived at the scene at 9:25 PM and observed a White Via taxi crashed into a chain link fence with the rear driver’s side door open. Behind the wheel of the cab, Thomas White, a heavy-set black male, was bleeding profusely. Officer Karp also noticed a box with a rifle in the back seat. Karp asked White if he had been shot. White said “He robbed me. I am dying, please help me, man.” When asked if he knew who robbed him, White said “No, please help me. Get me out of this car.” White was then silent. White died from loss of blood which was the result of damage caused by a bullet wound.

About this time, James Van Dorn, a NY City cop who resided near the intersection of Prospect and 41st. Street was out in the street working on his car. He looked down and noticed a black leather jacket between his rear tire and the curb. Van Dorn picked up the jacket, looked for ID, and threw it back on the ground. He noticed a large white tag which read size 4X. Suddenly, a dark-skinned black male, about five foot five with short hair and black baggy pants or jeans and a long sleeve red shirt approached Van Dorn and said, “That’s my jacket.” Van Dorn said “OK” and the guy put the jacket on and walked away. Earlier, Van Dorn had noticed flashing police lights at the end of the street. He decided to walk down and investigate. He eventually told one of the officers at the scene what had happened.

At the trial of Byron Brown, Van Dorn identified Byron Brown as the person he saw that night. He also identified the black leather jacket.

As part of the police investigation of the incident, PO Ronald Williams positioned his police car at the intersection of 41st. Street and New Highway in Copiague, in order to establish a perimeter around the scene. At approximately 10:00 PM, Officer Williams stopped a black male. He described this black male as about twenty years old, five foot five, dark complexion wearing a black jacket, black pants and black shirt. This individual said he was coming from Pathmark (a grocery store) and was on his way to his girlfriend’s house. Williams let him go because he didn’t think there was cause to hold him.

Byron Brown’s  girlfriend Tina Robinson testified at trial that on Saturday, April 5th, she told Byron Brown that her aunt wanted him to leave. When he left that evening, he was wearing green pants, green shirt, and a black leather jacket. Robinson identified the black leather jacket that was in evidence. That night between 9:00 and 10:30 PM, Brown called her from Pathmark and said he wanted to come back and talk. When he got there, he told Tina that he’d been stopped by a cop at New Highway because of a shooting. That night Tina let Byron sleep in a van in the driveway.

Meanwhile, the police continued their investigation. The crime scene was videotaped and the taxi cab as well as the cardboard box and rifle (which turned out to be a Marlin 30.30) were transported to the crime lab garage.

Four latent fingerprints were lifted from the cardboard box, and at trial Brown conceded that the fingerprints were his. A spent bullet was recovered from inside the driver’s side door. The police determined that the bullet had been fired from that rifle found in the taxi.

Det. Charles Kosciuk, a crime scene analyst and reconstructionist, testified at the trial that the taxi had struck a tree, taken down a mailbox, and ten to fifteen feet of chain link fence. There were no skid marks, and in his opinion the taxi was going slightly less than thirty miles per hour when it crashed.

Once Byron Brown’s prints were identified as being on the cardboard box which contained the rifle, the Homicide Squad began looking for him. At 11:30 PM, April 7th, PO Kevin Murphy and his partner stopped an automobile in Bay Shore. They arrested one of the passengers for marijuana possession. This passenger had a phone calling card in his pocket which identified him as Byron Brown. At the 3rd Precinct, Murphy determined that Homicide wanted to talk to Mr. Brown.

Det. Gerald McAlvin picked up Brown shortly after midnight on April 8th and transported him to the Homicide Squad in Yaphank. At 12:45 AM, defendant Brown signed a Miranda card waiving his rights, and submitted to questioning.

After giving several false versions of the incident that had occurred on Saturday night, Brown admitted that he was trying to rob the cab driver when he shot him. Brown told Det. McAlvin that he had intended to walk back to Academy Place in Huntington Station, where he was staying with Doris Hartos, his ex-girlfriend, but he changed his mind and decided to rob a cab driver. He gave the driver a fictitious address near his girlfriend Tina’s house, because Brown intended to go there after the robbery. Brown tapped the driver on the arm with the rifle barrel and announced a robbery as they were driving down the street. 

When the driver began to turn around, Brown shot the driver in the upper torso. Brown said the car was moving when he fired the shot, and then the car crashed into someone’s yard. When he heard a lady yelling, Brown panicked and ran away without getting any money. He acknowledged dropping his jacket and encountering Van Dorn when he went back to retrieve it. Brown then went to Pathmark. Brown admitted being stopped by a police officer on New Highway on his way from Pathmark to Tina Robinson’s house.

Defendant Brown then gave a written confession, made a sketch of the robbery and identified crime scene photos.

Brown told Det. McAlvin that on the night of the shooting he was wearing a Barry Force satin jacket, dark-colored shirt, black pull-up boots and black Hilfiger jeans. Brown said that the clothes were in a green Eddie Bauer duffle bag at Doris Hartos’ house. Brown signed a permission to search form. Det. McAlvin later recovered the duffle bag which contained a black leather jacket. The jacket was identified by Van Dorn as well as other witnesses at the trial.

At 7:10 AM, Brown was returned to the 3rd Precinct in order to be taken to court for arraignment. At this point, Brown was allowed to make a phone call and he called Tina Robinson. Det. McAlvin overheard Brown tell Robinson, in sum and substance, that he did what he did and could not take it back and that he was under arrest for murder.

When Byron Brown was arrested, he had in his pocket a personal address book which had the number 800-267-5334 written on the inside cover. At trial, Diana Glaser, an investigator for Bell Atlantic testified that the phone number 800-267-5334 was a pre-paid phone card issued by I.C.G. Trucker Phone Company. Phone number 516-531-8203 is a Bell Atlantic public telephone at 125 Broad Hollow Road in Melville, NY, which are the phones just in front and to the north of Drexel Heritage. The pre-paid calling card was used from that phone booth three times between 9:00 and 9:10 PM on April 5, 1997.

VERDICT: Count 1, Murder 1, Guilty
Appellant’s Sentence: Life Without Parole



 Byron K. Brown, 2014
Graduation photo from Cornell Prison Education Program
(Associate's Degree)


STATEMENT FROM BYRANT'S ATTORNEY
CHARLES E. SCHMIDT:
·      Everything points to an accidental firing of the rifle.  Did you know it was broken?  I don’t know if the trial attorney engaged an expert to testify how easily such a gun could fire accidentally.  After all, who would shoot the driver of a moving vehicle of which they were a passenger?  

·      All confessions in Suffolk County are suspect.  Byron never told me he confessed.  Actually quite the opposite.  Suffolk County (and New York) was enamored with the Death Penalty Statue and everyone was trying to get as many of those prosecutions going as they could (until Gianelli and Keahon ran the State out of money and the legislature realized the it was too costly.  So when another case on which I was a trial attorney was overturned by the Court of Appeals and the Statute ruled unconstitutional, the legislature let the Statute die).  
·      This case should have been charged as Manslaughter.  When the case was decertified as a Capital Case, I was no longer the attorney, and another was appointed.  
·      The sentence Byron received was the sentence that most Capital cases end up with - a result of the overcharging.  This matter is as much political as it is an example of the inequity in the criminal justice system.  There is so much here and it is complex.  That is why Byron needs someone who can rollup his/her sleeves and wade into the morass.  He needs a team because there are so many things that must be done.  


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