Many of you at Northside have been praying for Adam Braseel’s freedom for five years.I first met Adam in 2010, as Churches of Christ began a new ministry at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Adam was 27 years old. He was 24 when convicted of murdering Malcolm Burrows and assaulting Burrows’ sister. Adam asked me to serve as his mentor at Riverbend and I quickly agreed. From the beginning, Adam maintained his innocence and urged me to read his case, which I did. We prayed a lot.
After the murder of Malcolm Burrows and the terrible beating of his sister, the person who then served as Sheriff in Grundy County went looking for a suspect. Two witnesses said that the perpetrator had red hair and drove a gold car. Adam was red headed and drove his mother’s gold car, so he was questioned by the officers. Knowing that he had nothing to hide, Adam readily offered his clothing and his car for examination. Even though officers found no blood evidence, and even though none of the fingerprints at the crime scene matched, Adam Braseel was indicted, tried, and given a life sentence of 51 years.
In 2015, a Knoxville attorney appealed Adam’s conviction based on a faulty photograph I.D. and testimony of witnesses not called in the first trial. The Honorable Justin Angel, newly elected District Court Judge for the county, awarded Adam a new trial and set him free until he could be tried again. Freedom was short lived, however. The Criminal Court of Appeals overturned Judge Angel’s decision.
James Kelley, Adam’s new mentor, and the Northside church continued to pray.
By 2017, Adam had a new attorney. Alex Little, convinced of Adam’s innocence, has been relentless. Having discovered multiple new evidence, he asked Judge Angel for another hearing. Having read the discovery evidence, the District Attorney of Grundy County offered Adam a plea deal before the hearing even began: take an Alford plea admitting to murder, spend four more years in prison, and go free. Adam refused.
In the new hearings, held in July and August of this year, the new evidence was presented by Adam’s attorney. 1) A deputy sheriff testified that Malcom Burrows wallet and money (the supposed motive in Adam’s conviction) was still on the body when discovered. 2) A witness from the Tennessee Bureau of investigation testified that at the time of the murder, fingerprints were found in the car of the deceased but could not be matched to anyone. In 2017, the fingerprints were run through the TBI system again. They perfectly matched a known felon named Kermit Bryson, who had red hair and resembled Adam Braseel. This man was known to Malcolm Burrows. He had later killed a deputy sheriff and then killed himself. 3) a third witness testified that the car Kermit Bryson drove was gold. 4) A fourth witness testified that she had done drugs with Kermit Bryson and that he had admitted to killing Malcolm Burrows.
A recess was called in the hearing. We were told that negotiations were being held. Eventually, Adam and his attorney appeared before Judge Angel. A deal had been reached. Adam took an Alford plea (allowing him to remain silent when asked if he had done anything wrong) holding him accountable for the beating of Burrows’ sister but not for the murder. It was not a perfect day, but here is the result. 1) Adam Braseel is free. 2). He will not have to endure another trial which could possibly return him to prison. 3) Adam will be able to appeal his guilt of any charge relating to the crime and have the charges expunged. 4) He can never again be in prison for anything relating to these crimes.
Adam says he wouldn’t change anything. He has taught and baptized many whom he met in prison during the past 12 years. He will no longer endure incarceration for something he did not do. He is with his family, and he will live his life honorably, continuing to serve the Lord with a new vision of fighting for others who, like himself, were wrongfully convicted.
We are thankful for your faithful prayers, and we praise God for his mercy and grace—providing just the right people at just the right time to give Adam freedom.