After 12 years in prison, Adam Braseel made history as Tennessee’s first convicted murderer to receive a full exoneration. Announced by Governor Bill Lee among 16 other executive clemency cases, Braseel’s case, the only exoneration, took a long time to resolve, said Tyler Whetstone in the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The article said that under Tennessee law, an exoneration counts as the highest act of clemency and means that the governor did not believe in Braseel’s guilt. “Interestingly enough, I can say I am completely exonerated today and not to have to worry about it no more ever again,” said Braseel.
Accused of killing a 60-year-old man on a rural road in 2006, without any forensic evidence, a photo lineup amounted to the only evidence against Braseel. After consistently maintaining his innocence, Braseel won a retrial in 2015 after a judge threw out his original guilty verdict. This freed Braseel for two months, but the Court of Criminal Appeals overruled the decision and sent him back to prison, Whetstone wrote.
The article said that two years later, fingerprints initially found on the victim’s car actually belonged to a local felon who committed suicide in 2008. The two men closely resembled each other in their slight build and their red hair. The emergence of new evidence led to a retrial.
Whetstone wrote that the retrial ended in 2019 with an Alford Plea that did not require admission of guilt but acknowledged the existence of sufficient evidence to convict of the lesser charge of aggravated assault. Faced with a choice of the plea and immediate release or with staying in prison and continuing to fight the case, Braseel entered the plea.
The article called Braseel’s choice difficult because it would leave him with a felony record. Finally, a 2020 unanimous decision by the Tennessee Board of Parole recommended him for exoneration. “Life is just full of uncertainties and you really don’t know until you know,” said Braseel.