A Louisiana man walked free after having spent nearly three decades behind bars for a rape the victim herself has long insisted he didn’t commit, authorities said.
Patrick Brown, 49, was convicted of aggravated rape in 1994 in a case involving his 6-year-old stepdaughter, Orleans Parish prosecutors said.
But the girl never testified, and Brown's conviction was based on adults' testifying "to what they believed she had said," the Orleans Parish district attorney said in a statement.
The woman, now an adult, "has remained steadfast for over 20 years" that Brown is innocent, "and the evidence corroborated the victim’s account," the district attorney said.
Criminal District Court Judge Calvin Johnson released Brown on Monday.
Attorney Kelly Orians said her client never lost hope he'd be free someday. She overheard him telling a courthouse bystander that his freedom isn't a stroke of luck.
"He said to somebody: 'This isn’t like winning the lottery. This is an act of Jesus Christ,'" Orians said in an interview Wednesday. "He’s said he never lost hope this would happen, largely due to his faith in God."
District Attorney Jason Williams, who won election in 2020, said it was "disheartening" to know the victim's insistence that Brown wasn't her attacker hadn't been heeded for so many years.
“Listening and engaging victims and survivors of sexual assault is a top priority in this office," Williams said in a statement. "It is incredibly disheartening to know that this woman was dismissed and ignored, no matter how inconvenient her truth, when all she wanted was the real offender to be held responsible."
Williams said wrongful convictions have a particularly corrosive impact on the judicial system.
“When someone is wrongfully convicted, not only is it an injustice for the person who has years of their life stolen, but it is an injustice for the victim and the people of New Orleans because the real perpetrator is left to harm others," he said.
Orians said Brown and his loved ones couldn't immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning as they made up for all the years he was locked up at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a maximum-security facility in Angola.
“They’re really just focused on spending time together and making up for the last three decades of not being able to be together," she said.
In his first 48 hours of freedom, Brown is trying to acquaint himself to 2023 technology.
"All of it. Everything between cellphones, computers, hybrid cars, electric vehicles, debit and credit cards, it's all very overwhelming and completely brand new to him," Orians said.