After nearly two full years of uncertainty, on top of 28 years he wrongfully served in prison, John Brown is finally free.

Those who remember John’s triumphant 2018 release from prison might be confused: wasn’t he free then? But there are levels to a person’s access to freedom after wrongful conviction. Despite John walking out of prison in summer 2018 for a crime he didn’t commit, he still had to wait ­ on a decision that could have sent him back.


In John’s case, the State appealed the decision that overturned his conviction. And after John won that appeal, the local prosecutor had to decide whether to re-file charges. “How are you going to send someone back to prison after being out for over two years?” said Erin Cassinelli, Brown’s local counsel in Arkansas. “Waiting that long to hear if you’re going to have to return to incarceration is just nuts. I don’t think many of us thought the State would retry him because there was a confession (from the true perpetrator), but we all know how many cases are prosecuted when they shouldn’t be, so we were still worried.”


In April, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the reversal of John’s and co-defendant Tina Jimerson’s convictions. It also noted the convictions were not just a result of negligence: the state had destroyed evidence in bad faith.

Finally, in September, the State dismissed all charges against John: all possible appeals were over. John gets to keep his freedom ­— and is now officially exonerated in the eyes of the law.

Remembering John Brown 1967-2020

It is with great heartbreak that the Midwest Innocence Project shares that exoneree and former client John Brown passed away yesterday due to natural causes. John served over 28 years for a crime he did not commit after investigators and prosecutors hid and manufactured evidence to convict John and his two also innocent Black co-defendants. John’s conviction was overturned, and he came home in 2018 while the state of Arkansas appealed that court’s ruling. He was ultimately exonerated, and all charges dropped in September of this year.


John was family, and he considered MIP his family, too. He often called to check in with us and made sure that we knew we were loved. Although he endured much in his life, he was quick to remind us that he was “blessed, as you are.” MIP staff last spoke with him on Christmas day, when he asked that we make sure the whole MIP family knows how much he loves you and how much you changed his life and others.


While John was no longer incarcerated, his death was still the result of his unjust conviction as he ultimately succumbed to congestive heart failure that resulted from years of untreated high blood pressure while he was in prison. In the time that we knew him, even when he was incarcerated, he would remind us that if anything ever happened to him, to know he is okay and he is with God.


Please consider donating to John’s GoFundMe as his family makes arrangements.


For now, we are all holding John and his family in our hearts, as he always held us in his.

The resistance John faced is unfortunately common. Even when we win someone’s initial release, immediate freedom isn’t always followed by exoneration, or a record expungement.
But as with John, we’ll keep fighting for justice, even if it has to be more than once. We’ll keep resisting against a system that attempts to put an asterisk on someone’s freedom.
Will you join the resistance so that more innocent people can have their lives returned to them?