Alfred Brown’s case—one we have covered several times over the years—reached an important milestone this past week. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg “has officially declared Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was on death row for almost 10 years, innocent. An investigation has also concluded the prosecutor who worked on Brown’s trial engaged in professional misconduct.” Led by special counsel John Raley, who represented high-profile exoneree Michael Morton, the thorough inquiry makes it possible for Mr. Brown to collect compensation for his wrongful conviction. It also opens the door for prosecutor Dan Rizzo—responsible for the misconduct that helped put Brown on death row—to potentially face professional consequences for his actions.
In a seriously discouraging development in January, the State Bar dismissed the first grievance filed against Rizzo. However, Ogg’s recent release of Raley’s extensive report provides support for a new set of ethical complaints. According to media reports, “the Harris County DA’s office intends to file additional complaints against Rizzo based on the findings of the special investigation. ‘The evidence shows that ADA Rizzo was fully aware of the [relevant phone] records,’ Raley said. ‘He understood the importance of the records and that he failed to produce them to the defense and the court.’”
The report goes further in its critique of Rizzo’s work than previous investigations. While there is no doubt that Rizzo failed to disclose the exculpatory evidence that eventually led to Mr. Brown’s release, Raley added: “It is impossible to examine the conviction of Alfred Dewayne Brown without confronting prosecutorial misconduct . . . . ADA Daniel Rizzo presided over a Grand Jury that abusively manipulated witnesses to supply evidence for a chosen narrative. He was provided notice of the existence and meaning of exculpatory evidence, failed to produce it to the defense and avoided it during trial. Further investigation of his conduct is warranted.”
We have not read the report from beginning to end yet, but may provide future content after we do. For now, we will leave with a thought from our January post: although the State Bar’s dismissal was a disappointment, a similar course of events unfolded in the ethical proceedings against Charles Sebesta for his conduct in the Anthony Graves case. A new grievance breathed new life into the State Bar’s review, and Sebesta was ultimately disbarred. Dan Rizzo’s actions unquestionably deserve scrutiny and discipline.