Convicted of a brutal murder she swears she didn’t commit, Joyce Ann Brown has vowed to clear her name-or die trying.

FOR A WHILE, IT LOOKED LIKE SHE MIGHT GET OUT THIS spring. But she’s been wrong before; it looked that way once before, back in 1984. And, of course, it looked that way in 1980, when she still naively believed that justice will always prevail. ■ Joyce Ann Brown has been waiting for that magic day, any day now, for nine years, and so even if it comes tomorrow, it can never be soon enough. ■ It can’t give her back nine years. ■ And if things remain as they stand, she has eleven more years to go, here in the Mountain View Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. ■ She will tell you that memories fade in a place where nothing ever happens, and besides, there is precious little happening here that is worth remembering. ■ And so still more of her life trickles through her fingers, unrestrained. And she will tell you one more thing: she will tell you that she does not deserve to be here. ■ Joyce Ann Brown will tell you that on May 6, 1980, she was at her desk at Koslow’s furs-that she was not anywhere near Fine Furs by Rubin. ■ She will tell you that she did not walk into Fine Furs by Rubin with Rene Taylor, and that she was not there while two robbers held the owner and his wife, Rubin and Ala Danziger, at gunpoint while they loaded plastic trash bags with several thousand dollars’ worth of furs. And she will tell you that she did not stand by while Rene Taylor cold-bloodedly shot and killed Rubin Danziger. Because she just wasn’t there.

Others will tell you that, too.

And after you’ve met Joyce Ann Brown and have heard some of the particulars of her trial, there is a fair chance you may believe her. And if you believe her, then you will not feel too very good.

All she is asking is a fair chance. The same fair chance given Lenell Geter and Randall Dale Adams. She’s not even asking for all they got; she doesn’t want to just walk away from jail without another trial. She wants another day in court.

Joyce Ann Brown will tell you and anybody who will listen that she is innocent. She says she will keep on trying to tell that to someone who can help her until she is finally heard by another jury, or she has died trying to be heard. Or until eleven more years trickle by and she leaves prison- another convicted felon on parole.

It’s a humane prison. Even so, it’s your worst nightmare come true. It’s a nightmare made of vast reaches of subjective time, minutes dribbling into hours molded into days shaped slowly into years.

To fully grasp the deadness of so much lost time spent waiting in this human storage bin, you’d have to live through every single moment, and you don’t want to do that: an outsider can only skim over it, touching down here and there amid those interminable periods of sorrow and sameness, routine and rage, depression and desperation.

Sometimes, when my thoughts about Joyce Ann Brown catch me off guard, when I can almost feel for a moment how she must feel all of the time, I want to scream.

And not just over her particular plight. Because if what she says is true, then there’s a big hole in our system, one that any of us might fall through, any day now.

SHE IS BROUGHT BY THE GUARD INTO THE visiting area to the accompaniment of those omnipresent and never-ending prison sounds-the clank and jangle of heavy keys, the scraping and the clanging of metal doors reverberating off bare concrete walls while monotonous machinery thrums somewhere unseen.

Even in the visiting area, cleaned up for public consumption, there’s still a trace of that stifling, fetid humidity that arises from too many fearful or angry or finally apathetic human bodies warehoused in a place they can’t escape or even forget for a while.

But as Joyce Ann Brown, wearing a crisp white prison dress, takes her seat on the other side of the wire-mesh screen, she is illuminated by sunlight slanting down-sunlight thinned and strained and made pale through the impenetrable sieve of dirty glass and steel bars and barbed wire and chicken-wired windowpanes, but sunlight never-theless, from the west down to the east. A hopeful light.

And she smiles, and it is still a remarkably sunny and hopeful smile. What makes the smile particularly poignant is that it comes out of the face of a person who no longer has a real life.

“Prison, really and truly, is a living hell,” she says. But for her part, Joyce Ann Brown is not losing any sleep. On the contrary, she’s sleeping only too well.

“You get into these routines, and it’s work and sleep and work. There are times,” says TDC #314036, “when I just get totally tired, and I go and sleep. I sleep sometimes for fourteen hours straight. If I’m off work, that’s my time to do as I please, and when I’m bored or I don’t want to be bothered, I go to sleep. Because I have to consider that there are other people who didn’t put me here- the guards, the inmates-so therefore, when I get in one of my irritable moods, rather than stay up and say something I didn’t mean to say, I go to sleep and try to sleep it away.

“And I escape that way. I dream about going home, and my daughter, and my stepson that I lost since I’ve been here. He committed suicide.”

She still agonizes over the question she can’t answer about that: would he have done it if she had been there?

This place would be hell enough for the guilty. For the innocent.. .well, there’s a temptation to succumb to an urge to find a short rope and a high light fixture. Part of what keeps Joyce Ann Brown going is a belief in ultimate justice-even though nowhere is that written into Texas law-and the fact that her family believes in her.

“I made up my mind when I came in that even though I was doing time for something that I didn’t do, I wasn’t going to let them break me. I didn’t use drugs, use pills, drink, or smoke before I came in here, and I wasn’t going to let them drive me to that now.

“They had taken away my freedom, taken me from my children, and I just wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of knowing that they had gotten the best of me-that I came to the peniten-tiary and flipped out.

“My family is doing this time right along with me. And I know it’s hard on them-the wear and tear of coming down here every two weeks to make sure I keep a close bond with my child and with them.”

The hardest part, for her family, was reading during her trial that she had been convicted of prostitution.

Brown, the eldest of a large family, makes no bones about that career. She is not at all proud of it. She tries to paste some slight dignity on it by saying, “I never stood on street corners.1’ And she says she took that ill-fated job at Koslow’s furs to gain some measure of respectability: her daughter had reached an age where her friends might start to ask “What does your mama do for a living?”

“That’s what hurt more than anything else; them having to read about that conviction in the paper. I figured my family wouldn’t want anything to do with me, that they’d be so ashamed. But I remember they came to me while I was in the county jail and they said, ’We didn’t know. You’ve always been there for us, and now we’re going to be here for you.’ That meant a lot to me, more than you can know.

“I think quite a few people in here believe me. 1 know quite a few guards that would even speak up in my behalf. Some of them have said, ’How do you do it? I probably would have been in psych center or would have killed myself by now.’

“And I say, ’You’d be surprised.’ There’s no way I’d wind up in psych center or killing myself, because the only way I’d kill myself is die of a heart attack or something fighting to prove I did not do this. That’s the only way I’ll ever get off [prosecutor] Norm Kinne’s back: reaching out for anybody that’s willing to help me to prove that I did not do this, because I didn’t.”

The record of Joyce Ann Brown’s trial pretty much speaks for itself. In twenty years in journalism, much of it spent in courthouses around the state, I have not seen a weaker case-at least, not a major one in which a conviction resulted.

Others agree. Al Teel is a former postal inspector who investigated the case for defense attorney Kerry FitzGerald. He has some thirty years in law enforcement. He is no bleeding heart. He’s sent people to prison himself, without a second look. But in Joyce Ann Brown’s case, says Teel: “It’s unbelievable. I don’t get on a soapbox often, but there’s no way this gal should be in jail.”

Del Vandiver, a former FBI agent whose duty as a federal officer in 1980 was to track Rene Taylor on charges of interstate flight to avoid prosecution, has put more than a few behind bars, too. But he feels the same way.

“I think she probably is innocent. Intuition? Well, no. The way her name came to my attention was unusual to begin with. I had someone who was incarcerated at the Dallas County Jail come to me and say that Joyce Ann Brown was in for something she didn’t do.

“Inmates generally don’t stop The Man to talk to him. Never in all the time I was with the FBI did I have anybody stop me to profess someone else’s innocence. They just don’t stop The Man. So I talked to Joyce. She told me what the situation was. I reviewed the information available maybe a week and a half after her arrest. And I talked to some other people who were working on the case for the defense, people I respected. Al Teel and Bill Holloman, a former FBI agent himself, who was a first-class agent. I respected his opinion, and he was convinced she was innocent. The more we dug, the funnier it looked. It just didn’t look like she was very ’good’ for the offense.”

Vandiver discussed his feelings with the U.S. Attorney’s office and with the Dallas County prosecutors.

And attorney Kerry FitzGerald had Brown polygraphed. The polygraph showed she was telling the truth. So did a later one.

FitzGerald took the polygraph information to prosecutor Norm Kinne, who told him “I’ve got an eyewitness. We’re going to trial.”

It’s stayed with Vandiver and the others involved with the case lo, these nine years. Why? “This is the only case I’ve ever worked on where I was convinced someone was going down for a long time for something they didn’t do,” says Vandiver. “Joyce Ann Brown is no pillar of virtue, but she doesn’t need to go down for this.”

ON MAY 6, 1980, TWO BLACK WOMEN, ONE dressed in pink and wearing sunglasses, the other wearing a navy blue jogging suit, entered Fine Furs by Rubin sometime around 1 p.m.

Danziger, then fifty-four, went to the rear of the store. The woman in pink followed. The one in blue stayed up front with Mrs. Danziger, who panicked and pushed a silent alarm. She pushed the button so hard, she later testified, that it broke her fingernails. Then the woman in pink, holding a pistol, shoved Rubin Danziger up against the wall while he begged the woman not to harm him or his wife.

She shot him and he fell to the floor. He would die a short while later.

The gunwoman shouted at Mrs. Danziger to stuff the furs into some black plastic bags they had brought and kicked her as she began loading the bags. The woman with the gun fired a shot at her, but it missed her head and struck the store’s front window. Mrs. Danziger was able to save herself from a second bullet by telling the woman that she had terminal cancer and had only a couple of weeks to live.

“We’ll just let you suffer,” the woman in pink said, and ordered her into a rear room. The two then left.

Mrs. Danziger has suffered plenty: she didn’t have cancer, so she lived, and in some respects, that may have been worse. It was an incredibly cold-blooded crime. And making it even more inflammatory in the minds of the jurors and spectators was the fact that Danziger and his wife were both immigrants and survivors of the Holocaust. The prosecution could not have asked for a better witness: Mrs. Danziger was wracked with grief during much of her testimony, with State District Judge Ron Chapman asking her repeatedly if he should stop the proceedings to allow her to regain control.

At one point, after Assistant District Attorney Norm Kinne finished questioning her, Mrs. Danziger looked at Joyce Ann Brown and began wailing, “Why did you do it? Why do you do it and took my purse with everything else, you ruined my life, you took my life. My husband’s life and my life…”

That might’ve been what cinched it.

Mrs. Danziger remains convinced to this day that her identification of Joyce Ann Brown, first from police photos and later from the witness stand, is absolutely 100 percent correct. She is unequivocal, In fact, Del Vandiver, who became well acquainted with Mrs. Danziger, says that as much as he would like to see Brown come to trial again, he would equally “like to see Ala Danziger change her mind. If Brown were acquitted, Mrs. Danziger would go to her grave convinced a guilty person had been turned loose, and she deserves better. She deserves some peace of mind.”

Police testified that the day after the shooting, the getaway car was found. A rental slip in the front seat said it was rented by Joyce Ann Brown. Then, things happened fast: someone in the police department’s vice squad remembered having arrested a Joyce Ann Brown on prostitution charges.

Police said a confidential informant, whom prosecutors did not produce at the trial, had called in to finger Joyce Ann Brown.

Mrs. Danziger picked Joyce Ann Brown out of a photographic lineup.

Another informant gave police Rene Taylor’s name and the address of her apartment near McKinney Avenue and Fitzhugh.

When police searched Rene Taylor’s home, they found a pink jogging outfit, a .22-caliber revolver with two spent rounds, some fur pieces, and business cards from Fine Furs by Rubin and Koslow’s. Nothing incriminating was found at Brown’s.

Police identified one print on a coat hanger from the rented car as being from the left middle finger of Rene Taylor. Other prints were not identified but did not belong to Joyce Ann Brown.

A warrant was issued for Joyce Ann Brown. Hearing on the grapevine that she was wanted, she contacted her lawyer and arranged to come “straighten it out. I wasn’t running, I wasn’t hiding, and I would be coming in because I did not commit that crime.”

On May 14, Mrs. Danziger identified Rene Taylor as the woman in pink who shot her husband. In the same photographic lineup, Mrs. Danziger repeated her identification of Brown. Taylor was not arrested until March 23, 1981, when she was caught shoplifting in Michigan.

It didn’t much matter what Brown was saying about her innocence at the time of her arrest, because, as Al Teel put it, “If I were the police, I would have figured I’d made my case, too.” It looked rather cut and dried-the usual horrible crime by the usual ratty people. But things changed rather dramatically.

It turned out that the car had indeed been rented by a Joyce Ann Brown-but one who lives in Denver, not Dallas. Police found Denver Joyce, who admitted renting and then lending the car to Rene Taylor, at that point still a fugitive in the Danziger case.

Was the same-name thing an incredible coincidence?

As a matter of fact, one of the deputies in the very court that tried Dallas Joyce was herself named Joyce Ann Brown. This third Joyce Ann Brown actually signed some of the papers in the case. The woods are full of Joyce Ann Browns.

The woods, in fact, are full of every kind of coincidence.

I once personally spent a scary thirty minutes during a routine traffic stop leaning against the back of a squad car while officers ascertained by computer that I was not in fact the same Bradley Scott Bailey who was sought on a Florida auto theft warrant.

Was Mrs. Danziger’s eyewitness identification of Dallas Joyce so damning? In a more clear-cut case with other evidence to support the identification, probably so.

But as Vandiver puts it, “Eyewitness identifications are always weak. The human brain does strange things, particularly under stress, Sometimes it sees things in such detail that it never forgets, but other times sees things that aren’t there. And sometimes under stress it is very susceptible to suggestion. So many things can go wrong.”

For parallels, look no farther than Lenell Geter. But for the strongest parallel of all, consider the White Man with the Red Beard. For a while in the Danziger case, police were trying to make a case that David Sheafer, a white man with a red beard, was an accessory.

Mrs. Danziger swore that the man police arrested while he was working on a car in front of Joyce Ann Brown’s home-and who was seated in the courtroom during her testimony-was the same man she had seen loitering outside her store, and who police suspected might have driven the getaway car.

Again, Mrs. Danziger was adamant and unequivocal. In fact, she testified she was every bit as positive of her identification of the white man with the red beard as she was of her identification of the two women who robbed her.

Only problem: at the time of the robbery, the man was picking up his wife at the dentist’s office where she worked. His wife said so. So did the dentist, and his secretary.

Studies of similar situations show that in most cases, people held at gunpoint are, more than anything else, very interested in the gun itself. They can describe it with a great deal of detail. And second, they are interested in the person who’s holding it, who was in this case undoubtedly Rene Taylor.

It would seem only logical to expect Dallas police, after finding out the car was rented to Denver Joyce, would just realize their error, say “ain’t life a tunny thang,” and let Dallas Joyce go with an admonition not to leave town.

Instead, they tried Dallas Joyce.

The state’s case, such as it was, hinged on minutes-about thirty-six of them-unaccounted for by Joyce Ann Brown.

Joyce Brown testified that she did not eat lunch and did not leave her desk between noon and 1 p.m. Four coworkers and a co-worker’s husband corroborated nearly all of Brown’s story, including her statement that she was wearing a white skirt that day-and not a blue jogging suit-but left a gap of about thirty-six minutes during which no one was in exactly the same room with her. That gap happened to coincide roughly with the time of the robbery.

Brown punched a time clock at 8:48 a.m. on May 6, 1980, and did not punch it to leave until 4:12 p.m., her timecard showed. Perhaps more importantly, Brown, a receptionist, had fully mastered Koslow’s phone system, and seldom left for lunch so she could be there to attend it. Nobody reported any communication foul-ups that day.

The prosecutors, led by Norm Kinne, presented no witness who could testify to seeing Joyce Ann Brown either leaving or entering Koslow’s or Fine Furs by Rubin anywhere near the noon hour. Beyond presenting Ala Danziger’s identification, they could only damn Brown with faint speculation. They argued that a half-hour was enough time for Joyce Ann Brown to leave, drive to the Danzigers’ store, watch as Rene Taylor blew away a fifty-four-year-old furrier, load up the furs, change clothes twice, travel three miles two ways through noontime traffic, and return to work without being missed-and without even breaking a sweat.

Oddly enough, the Denver Joyce to whom the robbery car was leased had used the same alibi of being at work, and that was good enough for police to have dropped their investigation against her.

It is a tremendous tribute to Norm Kinne’s skill as a courtroom orator and water-muddier that he was able to imbed in the jury’s mind the theory that Dallas Joyce and her common-law husband, Lee Visor, were actually in cahoots with Denver Joyce and an alleged underworld acquaintance of Denver Joyce’s named Selman Fletcher to conspire to rent a car under Denver Joyce’s name and use Dallas Joyce and Rene Taylor to commit the robbery.

There was not one shred of credible evidence or testimony presented to support that theory either, other than the fact that Lee Visor had indeed spent some time in the Denver jail, and that Joyce Ann Brown was unaccounted for-not missing, mind you, just unaccounted for-during a period that roughly coincided with the robbery.

It was all a matter of Kinne’s incredible theatrical style and innuendo disguising the fact that the case had little substance.

Even Brown has to admire Kinne’s skill at getting juries to eat out of his hand. “The guy does such a good jot)-Norm is too good for our own good, that’s what the problem is. They selected a jury. None of these people have any experience with the law, and half of them can’t even interpret what the DA or the lawyer is talking about. It’s whichever lawyer makes the best speech. The defense lawyer has to make an above-excellent speech because the DA already has the jury in his pocket because he’s working for the public. All the evidence, all the testimony is really a waste of time. It’s whichever one gets up there and preaches the best. The defense lawyer is starting off second, not even, because of the DA’s position. It’s sad. It’s sad but it’s true.”

Up to this point, fair’s probably still fair. But here the plot sickens. Kinne called to the stand Martha Jean Bruce, who was incarcerated with Brown in county jail while she awaited trial. Bruce testified that Brown told her during their incarceration that she had in fact committed the robbery, and how.

Bruce’s testimony was sketchy and evasive, but she did testify to some details that were never made public. They were details that only two sets of people could have known: the robbers.. .and the prosecutors with whom Bruce conferred before testifying.

Says Joyce Ann Brown: “Norm Kinne used my intelligence against me with the jury. He told them about how intelligent I was, about how I had worked around the DPD for ten years and only in the last year had been convicted. He made me out to be a master criminal who had outslicked them. He made them think that I was so sure of my intelligence and so sure that this little illiterate black girl was so stupid that she’d never understand what I was saying that I went ahead and told her all about it.

“But my mother always told me to beware of anyone who brings you any gossip or bone, and Martha Bruce is the very same girl who came to me the first day in jail and told me, ’don’t talk to anyone in this jailhouse about your case, because they’ll be the first one to go down and make a deal with the DA.’ I am by no means a fool, and I know that if you’d tell me something like this, you’ve been involved in something like it before. So then I’m gonna turn around and tell her I did it? They gotta think I’m crazy.”

Martha Bruce also repeatedly testified that she was offered nothing by prosecutors in exchange for her testimony. If she lied, it is, of course, perjury.

But court records show that Bruce was released from prison shortly after Brown’s trial, after Kinne requested that the judge in Bruce’s case ask the state parole board for a reduction in her sentence.

Another interesting little fact concerning Bruce’s credibility-and a fact never brought to the attention of the jury-was that Martha Bruce, only a short time before the Brown case, had added this to the list of her many convictions: on March 13, 1980, less than eight months before she testified in the Dan-ziger case, Martha Jean Bruce was convicted of lying to a police officer.

A S EARLY AS 1984, SO MUCH MONKEY business had come to light in the case that Brown’s attorney, Kerry Fitz-Gerald, figured he had enough to get Brown a new trial, and then to get her acquitted.

Early that year, Rene Taylor met with The Dallas Morning News’ Steve McGonigle, who has been a staunch and tireless advocate of Brown’s. Taylor told McGonigle that she had never laid eyes on Joyce Ann Brown until they met in prison, in 1982.

State District Judge Ron Chapman, who sentenced Brown, went on record as saying she should be given a second polygraph ex-am, and told McGonigle: “If there is any chance that she is not good for the case, I feel it should be investigated. This has a possibility of being a more legitimate case for further investigation than the Geter case.”

Chapman heard FitzGerald’s motion for a new trial in July of 1984. During that hearing, Rene Taylor repeated her contention that Brown had nothing to do with the robbery. FitzGerald also presented evidence at that time that Norm Kinne had withheld from jurors the fact that the prosecutor had persuaded Martha Bruce to testify in exchange for having her own prison term reduced; though Bruce maintained she had been promised nothing for her 1980 testimony when she came before Chapman in 1984, FitzGerald introduced letters from District Attorney Henry Wade and Bruce’s trial judge asking the state parole board to reduce her sentence. The sentence was reduced from five to two years, and prison records show Bruce was paroled in July 1981 after serving thirteen months for attempted murder.

Judge Chapman forwarded the evidence to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals without a recommendation. And then, bang, Joyce Ann Brown was shot down once again: in December 1984, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Brown a new trial, and refrained from commenting on FitzGerald’s contention that prosecutors had acted improperly.

End of story, with no change until the year 2000, when Brown will become eligible for parole-except for Jim McCloskey.

Joyce Ann Brown went to prison, but other forces were at work: she contacted the Lenell Geter Foundation, which put her in touch with Centurion Ministries Inc. and its chief, McCloskey. He is a hard-driving, hard-talking bulldog of a man who sees his mission on earth not as saving souls from hellfire in the afterlife but from their hells right here on earth, and once he had screened and researched Brown’s case, McCloskey and his investigator, Richard Reyna, went to work with a vengeance.

They’ve done miracles, considering the fact that the case is nine years old.

In fact, Jim McCloskey’s got an extremely good idea of who committed the robbery and murder.

It almost got right by him.

“On November 3 of 1988,” McCloskey recalled, “Reyna and I are both down at TDC talking to Rene Taylor. We’ve been still screwing around tracking leads and getting nowhere in South Dallas. And Rene says, ’The associate in Albuquerque was my associate in Dallas.’ It went right over our heads. We’re just screwing around taking notes, and it went right over our heads. She told us that clear as a bell. I guess she didn’t think we’d figure out the reference to the Albuquerque case because there had been an acquittal.”

By some mental fluke they missed the significance of her statement and went on chasing along other bunny trails until a January interview when Rene Taylor again told McCloskey and Reyna “very pointedly and clearly and explicitly that if you got her Albuquerque accomplice, then you’ve also got the Danziger accomplice.”

Bingo: Rene Taylor and a woman named Lorraine Germany were indicted in June 1978 for the March 1978 armed robbery of Lloyd’s Furriers in Albuquerque.

The M.O. was remarkably similar, Mc-Closkey says, right down the line: the gun-toting member of the pair was in charge. The furs were carried out in a black plastic bag. One of the pair was even wearing a navy blue jogging suit similar to the one worn in the Danziger robbery/murder.

After Rene Taylor was apprehended in connection with the Danziger case, and long after Joyce Ann Brown was in prison, New Mexico authorities agreed to drop charges against Taylor in the lesser Albuquerque case. The New Mexican authorities were particularly amenable to that request in light of the fact that Taylor’s accomplice, Germany, had already beaten the rap.

Lorraine Germany had been captured in Denver. She had fought extradition, but was finally brought to trial in Albuquerque a year later, in June 1979.

It was not easy for McCloskey, who is not a member of “The Brotherhood” of law enforcement officers, to track all this down. It is a fact, however, that the information should have been readily available to Dallas police in May 1980. There was a New Mexico warrant out for Taylor and Germany on a fur store robbery.

But ten years later, McCloskey had little trouble tracking Germany down: in 1989, she was sitting in the Colorado state prison convicted of yet another robbery charge.

And she’s a dead solid ringer for Joyce Ann Brown.

“When she walked into the conference room, in the flesh, I got chills and Richard’s heart leaped into his throat,” McCloskey says. “The facial similarity is just amazing. There is a difference; Lorraine is dark brown in complexion and Joyce Ann Brown is definitely light-skinned. But the facial similarity is amazing.”

Germany admitted to her role in the Albuquerque case, but was not stupid enough to admit any connection to the Danziger case,

She presented them with a very leaky alibi, McCloskey recalls.

“She denied even knowing about the Dallas robbery until, she said, a day or two later when her father comes in holding a newspaper and says, ’Look what happened here.’ Lorraine said there was an article in the Denver paper, either the Post or the News, about the Dallas crime. That’s wrong. There wasn’t. We checked. No article in either paper-and since nobody in Denver would care anyway, why would there be?

“She claims her alibi in the Dallas case is her father. He’s not a real good character and has arrests himself.”

To say that Germany is a ringer for Brown may be an understatement. They look so much alike it’s spooky. Says Joyce Ann Brown, who has seen the photo, “My mother’s mouth looks like mine. This woman has my mouth.” And eyes, and nose.

When McCloskey told Taylor he had found Germany, she recanted,

A strange honor afflicts thieves. It’s quite possible that Rene Taylor’s conscience is large enough to extend to feeling bad about the wrong woman being in the pen, but not quite far enough to go ahead and put the right one, an old partner in crime, behind bars.

THERE’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT THE way the DA’s office works here. First, they may be, as Brown said, “too good for our own good.”

Second, this kind of thing seems to be a game with them. Contained in the records of the Joyce Ann Brown case on file at the courthouse is this exchange of letters between Judge Ron Chapman and prosecutor Norm Kinne concerning FitzGerald’s 1984 request for a new trial:

RE: State of Texas vs. Joyce Ann Brown

Dear Norman:

I am personalty offended by your thinly veiled threat to notify Mrs. Danziger of the upcoming hearing in the Joyce Ann Brown case. She cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a party or a fact witness.

I am disappointed in you.


Ron Chapman

Judge, Criminal District Court

Kinne’s reply was brief:

Dear Judge Chapman:

Some people have no sense of humor.

Norman Kinne

Chief Felony Prosecutor

It was chilling enough that Chapman included it in the casefile.

A prosecutor under Kinne’s supervision may have summed up the prevailing attitude in the DA’s office. His name will be left out of this because he’d had a drink or two and wasn’t being interviewed, but after I expressed some of my concerns about the Brown case, he looked at me rather blankly and said, “Well, hell-you know she’s guilty of something. Hell, everybody is.”

In 1984, when asked if he would join in the motion for a new trial, Kinne said: “Her case is over and done with. I don’t have any further plans for it.” But this spring, McCloskey brought to light the fact that some coat hangers from Fine Furs by Rubin were still in the evidence locker at DPD after they’d been found in the rent car, and they still had some fingerprints on them.

Kinne and the boys said, yeah, sure, they’d be willing to take a look at the case again- but only if the prints on the hangers matched those of Lorraine Germany. Sort of like, you jump through the hoop-but we’ll hold it way up here.

“I know one thing,” Joyce Ann Brown said at Mountain View: “They’re sure not mine.”

They didn’t match Germany’s, at least not in the opinion of the Dallas police.

So: Case Still Closed.

McCloskey and FitzGerald attach some hope for retrial to some recent statements by jurors that, had they known more about Martha Bruce, they might have decided differently. Even at the time of the trial, one juror said, “it was close.”

It’s not enough that, sitting there in prison, Joyce Ann Brown has to prove she didn’t do it; she’s got to go that extra zillion miles from her prison bunk to find out who did.

On its face, the solution would seem rather simple.

Bring her back. Try her again. If she did it, prove it with facts, not innuendo and testimony that stinks of perjury, and then send her back to prison. If she didn’t do it, let her go. You’d expect that out of a decent, humane society.

Yes, it would be expensive to retry Joyce Ann Brown-but then, she’s going to be pretty expensive to feed, clothe, and house for the next ten years.

But it’s not that simple.

Under the law, she’s already been tried, she’s already been convicted, and she’s exhausted her appeals, so ipso facto, she did it, and justice, as the law defines it, has been served. Under the law, no mistake has been made. There is nothing to be put right.

As Del Vandiver put it, “Should she be retried? If perfect, classic justice is to be served, well, yes. But there has to be some legal reason. You have to bring new evidence to light, or show that it was a bad trial. There really is no new evidence in this case-just permutations of old evidence. There are some strange coincidences, and some opinions, but no new witness-none that will come to court with documentary evidence.”

In other words, Joyce Ann Brown says she didn’t do it, but so what? Lorraine Germany says she didn’t, either, and Rene Taylor won’t say who did.

If Brown’s old cellmate, Martha Bruce, came forward to recant, she’d be staring a perjury charge in the face. Don’t wait on her conscience to push her forward. And unless he did offer Martha Bruce some inducement-and he has said that he did not- Norm Kinne, by definition, did well the job we pay him to do: as the public’s advocate, he took a dog of a case and got a conviction.

“I think Kinne did this with no malice,” Vandiver says. “I don’t think Brown was railroaded in the deliberate sense of the word. You could argue the prosecutor has some moral or ethical responsibility, but those are ethical questions, not legal ones. If a prosecutor doesn’t get the numbers on convictions, he doesn’t keep his job. You don’t get to be first assistant DA by not getting convictions. His duty is simply to present the evidence that supports his case. The defense presents theirs. The jury decides.

“It doesn’t matter how many ex-FBI agents might have an opinion. The case has to be decided on the evidence presented, and that was done.”

Joyce Ann Brown takes it a bit more personally. The last thing she said to me was a message for Norm Kinne.

“Tell him one day things are not going to look so glorious for him. I believe that our children and our children’s children pay for our mistakes-I shouldn’t use the word mistake; this was no mistake. But one fine day, there will be a payback. I don’t mean anything like I’ll do something, or someone will take out a hit or anything silly like that. I just mean that somewhere down the line, it’s going to show up. Norm Kinne has been in the DA business for a long time. And you have to wonder: how many more innocent people have had to suffer at his hands?”

That’s why I want to scream.

Because for every Lenell Geter, every Randall Dale Adams who has finally overcome the odds by fighting his way out of prison, there’s got to be a Joyce Ann Brown still lost in there.

Because she had the same name as someone else. Because she can’t account for every half-hour of every day.

You see, I can’t either. Neither can you.

And remember, everybody’s guilty of something.

JOYCE ANN BROWN, OUR INTERVIEW completed, waved one last time before the guard took her back behind the steel door and back into her gray steel nonex-istence, She flashed one last sunny smile and disappeared.

The female guard escorted me into a little courtyard where I was surrounded by chain-link and concertina, under the watchful eye of a guard in a far-off tower. She told me that another guard was on his way to let me out of the other side, back into the real world, and then she went on about her business.

I waited and waited.

I smoked. I paced. I fumed. And then, feeling pretty silly, I nevertheless got a little scared. I put my finger through the chain-link, and wondered what the man in the watchtower would do if I just lost it, and started screaming bloody murder.

And then I thought: what if this was my life?

The second guard never came. After maybe thirty minutes, the first guard realized there was a problem, went through all the security systems, drove around to the other side of the gate, and let me out. She apologized. She said I hadn’t done anything wrong.

There was just this glitch in the system.


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