The Trials of Eroy Brown: The Murder Case That Shook the Texas Prison System
By Michael Berryhill
(University of Texas, hardback, list price $29.95; paperback, list price $25.00)
A prizewinning journalist has dug deeply and impressively into a double killing that still haunts the Texas Department of Criminal Justice more than 30 years after it happened.
In 1981, a prison farm manager and a warden were killed by a black inmate who claimed self-defense. Many predicted the inmate, a convicted burglar and robber named Eroy Brown, would be executed.
But just a year earlier, Texas inmates had won a huge federal civil rights victory against “unrelenting cruelty” and brutal civil rights violations within the Texas prison system. In three trials that followed the killings, juries repeatedly considered the state’s evidence and found Brown innocent each time.
The verdicts, writes Berryhill, “marked the end of Jim Crow justice in Texas.” His account of Eroy Brown’s “astonishing” defense is based on trial documents, exhibits, and journalistic accounts and also draws upon Brown’s story told in his own words.
Berryhill, an excellent writer and researcher, chairs Texas Southern University’s journalism program. He previously has won a Texas Institute of Letters prize for nonfiction.
He has written for a number of well-known publications, including Harper’s, the New Republic, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times magazine.
– Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir available soon in paperback. He also is the author of a detective novel, Erwin’s Law, a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.