Both Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were clients of The Innocence Project, founded by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, best known for being part of OJ Simpson’s defence team. The Innocence Project works to free inmates serving time in prison for a crime they did not commit and what happened to Levon Brooks is one of the non-profit organisations most famous cases. Express.co.uk has everything you need to know.
Who is Levon Brooks? What happened to Levon Brooks?
Levon Brooks was a 26-year-old barman when he was falsely implicated in the death of three-year-old Courtney Smith.
Brooks was wrongfully convicted in January 1992 of Capital Murder and Sexual Battery in the case of three-year-old Courtney Smith.
On September 15, 1990, Courtney Smith was abducted from her Brooksville home in Mississippi.
At the time, she shared a bedroom with her two older sisters who were aged five and one.
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According to The Innocence Project, Smith’s five-year-old sister, Ashley Smith, would later go on to become a key witness in the prosecution case but due to her age, gave unreliable testimony.
Ashley Smith features in The Innocence Files and recalls how she told Detective Robert Williams that she saw a man come into the room with a quarter in his ear.
She explained to filmmaker Roger Ross Williams that she felt it was unfair to put her on the stand as the only eye-witness when she was just five-years-old.
Smith’s body was found two days later in a pond just eight yards from her home.
Brooks, who was the ex-boyfriend of Smith’s mother, became a suspect in the case as he vaguely matched a brief description given by Smith’s older sister.
Another man – Justin Albert Johnson – also became a suspect, who had been inside the Smith house on the day Courtney went missing.
Dr Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist, performed an autopsy on the Smith and determined she had been sexually assaulted.
He also found possible bite marks on her wrist and referred the case to forensic dentist, Dr Michael West.
West determined that the marks were the result of human bites and took dental impressions from 12 suspects, including Johnson but not Brooks.
When police interviewed Smith’s five-year-old sister, ten days after the crime took place, she identified Brooks and he was arrested.
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Dental impressions were then taken of Brook’s teeth and West went onto testify at Brooks’ trial that the marks on Smith’s body ‘matched’ Brooks’ teeth.
West testified: “It could be no one but Levon Brooks that bit this girl’s arm.”
Despite unreliable eyewitness testimony and an alibi, Brooks was found guilty by the jury.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment and served a total of 16 years behind bars as an innocent man.
As a result of the false imprisonment, the killer and rapist remained at large and carried out a near-identical murder in the same town four months later.
In the case of Christine Jackson, Kennedy Brewer was wrongfully convicted of the same offences as Brooks and was sentenced to death.
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Thankfully, in March 2008, DNA testing cleared Brewer of the crime and he was exonerated after serving 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The Innocence Project also argued that in both cases, the bite marks came from crawfish in the creeks where the bodies of both victims were found, debunking Dr West’s findings.
As seen in The Innocence Files, Dr West strongly defends his work.
But it seems Brooks was not behind the murder at all.
The real perpetrator was Justin Albert Johnson, who later confessed to committing both murders, clearing Brooks and Brewer’s name in the process.
But Brooks and Brewer’s case cast incredible doubt on bite mark comparison evidence and revealed troubling problems with autopsies and forensic oversight in Mississippi.
They were both given a sum of $50,000 [£40,191] a year for 10 years as compensation.
Both Brooks and Brewer appear in the documentary, reflecting on the case and their time in prison.
Sadly, there is some heartbreaking news in episode three of the documentary series surrounding Brooks.
Early in the episode, Brooks’ wife Dinah, revealed Brooks was unwell.
Brooks’s profile on The Innocence Project website confirms he died of cancer, aged 58, just 10 years after he was freed from prison.
In the last interview aired in the documentary featuring Brooks, he spoke about his love of drawing and how stopping the treatment meant he could feel his hands and paint again.
He said: “I’ve always been strong in my life. What I’m going through, I’m gonna fight it with everything I’ve got.”
Brooks died in January 2018 and emotional scenes see Brook’s niece purchasing his headstone before attending an uplifting memorial, attended by lawyers from The Innocence Project who fought for his freedom.
The Innocence Files is streaming on Netflix now
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