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Life & Arts

Remembering Joyce Ann Brown

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Randy Belice

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Joyce Ann Brown founder, president and CEO of Mothers (Fathers) For The Advancement of Social Systems, Inc. On June 13, 2015, Brown passed away in Dallas (TX) after suffering a heart attack. She was 68.

To be accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for a murder she did not commit was the beginning of a nine-year nightmare for Joyce Ann Brown. She was convicted of a 1980 murder in Dallas, TX, based on testimony from a witness who identified her from a photograph. Brown had become a suspect when police learned that a car used in the crime had been rented by someone named Joyce Ann Brown. Unfortunately, the Joyce Ann Brown who rented the car and the Joyce Ann Brown whom the police arrested were different persons.

An eyewitness erroneously identified the one who had been arrested, and that Joyce Ann Brown was charged with the crime. Before trial, police and prosecutors discovered the error but proceeded with the prosecution anyway. Brown was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to life in prison. After an investigation by Centurion Ministries and an exposé by CBS Sixty Minutes, Brown's conviction was reversed because police and prosecutors had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence in their possession. On February 14, 1990 — Valentine's Day — prosecutors dropped all charges.

After spending nine years, five months and 24 days in prison for a crime she did not commit, Brown was released and began her life’s legacy serving those least likely to obtain help from anywhere else - formerly incarcerated persons and their families. Brown founded the non-profit organization, Mothers ‘Fathers’ for the Advancement of Social Systems Inc. (MASS Inc.) with a mission to help formerly incarcerated persons and their families overcome economic hardship and provide social services to help them become law-abiding productive citizens with an operational program structure of Youth and Family, Return to Society and Public Advocacy.