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When Joyce Ann Brown saw her name in the newspaper in connection with a gruesome murder, she went straight to the police to clear up the obvious error. She was at work when it happened and she had no violent criminal history. How could the police possibly think she could be involved?
The moment police found out the getaway car was registered to Joyce Ann Brown — a different person with the exact same name — the coincidences began to mount. Along with incorrect witness identification, too much reliance on familiar analytical patterns, and a lying cellmate, just a year later Joyce was serving a life sentence in a Texas penitentiary.
Most everyone else would’ve accepted their fate. Joyce kept fighting. And thanks to a dogged media who refused to believe the district attorney’s narrative and an organization dedicated to helping the wrongfully-convicted, Joyce was able to walk free.
Sally Clark fell victim to probability errors. Brandon Mayfield’s injustice was about cognitive biases. Joyce Ann Brown’s life was turned upside down by a series of strange coincidences and bad prosecutorial judgment — and we just keep making all of the same mistakes.
*** SOURCES ***
Joyce Ann Brown. “Justice Denied.”  Noble Press. https://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Ann-Brown-Justice-Denied/dp/0962268356
60 Minutes: “Joyce Ann Brown is in JAIL.” Suzanne Popovich Chandler, Alan Weisman, Skip Brown, and Morley Safer. . Archive: https://youtu.be/dCLtUv3GIVI
Centurion Ministries, “Joyce Ann Brown.” https://centurion.org/cases/joyce-ann-brown/
University of Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations: https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=3061
Bluhm Legal Clinic Center on Wrongful Convictions, Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University: https://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/wrongfulconvictions/exonerations/tx/joyce-ann-brown.html
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Research and Writing by Matthew Tabor
Editing by John Swan
Huge Thanks To Paula Lieber
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