Through a sign-language interpreter at the Dallas County Jail, Stephen Brodie cops to all sorts of crimes save the one that put him behind bars for 10 years: sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl.
He insists he is innocent, and there’s support for his claim.
A fingerprint at the crime scene matches another man convicted in the sexual assault of a child. Brodie’s confession came during 18 hours of questioning and included admissions to fictitious crimes made up by investigators to test his credibility. Also, Brodie is deaf and doesn’t speak clearly, but police didn’t use an interpreter for about half of their interviews.
“I want people to know that I’m not a bad person,” said Brodie, 38, straining to be understood as he signed and spoke in a recent interview. “I want to be a law-abiding citizen.”
He soon may get the chance. The Dallas County District Attorney’s office has a unit that focuses on possible exoneration cases, and it is investigating whether Brodie is innocent. His new attorney, Michelle Moore, is a public defender known for helping to free the wrongly convicted. She acknowledged she is close to finishing key documents seeking his release.
These actions could lead to a hearing where a judge would decide whether to set aside Brodie’s conviction.
“If they find me not guilty and I’m exonerated,” said Brodie, “I’m getting out of Texas.”
The injustices in Brodie’s life began early. Spinal meningitis when he was 1 1/2 left him permanently deaf, and when he was 5, his mother abandoned him at a bus station.
In 1991, Brodie was a teenager and petty criminal in the Dallas suburb of Richardson when police arrested him for stealing quarters from a soda machine. But during questioning, their focus shifted to a more serious matter: the unsolved sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl.
A man had entered her room through a bedroom window and forced her to leave with her blanket and pillow. He later assaulted her, according to a police report.
The case was one of about a dozen similar sexual assaults terrorizing the Dallas area in the early 1990s. The newspapers labeled the unknown criminal the “North Dallas Rapist.”
After nearly 18 hours of questioning over about 14 days, Brodie confessed to assaulting the little girl, court documents show. Brodie told The Associated Press that he felt intimidated. While he finally admitted committing the assault, he also repeatedly denied it.
“It was a lot of stress, because (the detective) was asking me so many questions over and over again,” Brodie said. “I got fed up. I gave up. It’s easy to give up.”
His adoptive father, Steve Brodie, says his son was “being hounded by the Richardson Police Department” and made a scapegoat because of pressure over the unsolved sexual assaults.
Police are now questioning Robert Warterfield about this and several other sexual crimes victimizing children. Read more on that story here