News USA Patrick Brown spent 29 years in prison for a rape he didn’t...

Patrick Brown spent 29 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. The victim helped free him.

(CNN) — After spending 29 years in prison for the rape of his stepdaughter, a New Orleans man is free thanks to the help of the local prosecutor’s office and the testimony of the victim himself, who has insisted for 20 years that he is not the man who raped her.

Patrick Brown was found guilty of raping his 6-year-old stepdaughter in 1994 after pleading not guilty in a trial in which the victim did not testify; instead, the adults testified “about what they believed she had said,” according to a statement from the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office.

Since 2002, the stepdaughter had repeatedly asked the district attorney’s office to review the case and prosecute the actual perpetrator, according to the statement.

The office’s civil rights division opened an investigation into the victim’s case, found that the evidence corroborated his version, and asked the court to rectify the case, according to the statement.

“This victim has endured not only the profound trauma of child sexual assault, but also the trauma of learning that the wrong man has been incarcerated for nearly three decades while the one who raped her walked free,” said the Rights Division chief. Civilians, Emily Maw “This is a very sad case, but we are hopeful that this will bring closure to the victim and that she and Mr. Brown can move forward with healing.”

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown, center, raises his arms as he walks out a free man on May 8, 2023, in New Orleans, after decades in jail. (Credit: Chris Granger/The Advocate via AP)

Brown was released from prison on Monday, immediately after Judge Calvin Johnson’s criminal district court decision to vacate his conviction. The victim was present and testified, according to the statement and court records.

CNN has reached out to Brown’s attorney, Kelly Orians, for comment.

“Hearing and truly hearing survivors of sexual assault is a top priority in this office,” Parish Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams said in a statement. “It’s heartbreaking to know that this woman was dismissed and ignored, no matter how inconvenient the truth of her was, when all she wanted was to hold the real perpetrator accountable.”

Williams launched the civil rights division in part to “review cases of wrongful convictions and excessive sentences,” his office’s website reads. The division has intervened in 284 cases since 2021, with an estimated $266 million in taxpayer savings in life imprisonment, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Orleans Parish has 7.92 more exonerations per capita than the national average, the highest rate among US counties with more than 300,000 residents, according to the National Exemption Registry.

A 2022 report from the registry says innocent black Americans are seven times more likely than white Americans to be falsely convicted of serious crimes.

An effort to overturn these wrongful convictions across the country led to the creation of units like the civil rights division in Orleans Parish, dedicated to preventing and remedying false convictions. The National Registry of Exemptions tracked 44 units of this type throughout the country with exemptions registered until June 2022.

“Being progressive and reckoning with the sins of the past directly affects public safety today,” Williams said in a statement. “When someone is wrongfully convicted, it is not only an injustice to the person who had years of their life stolen from them, but it is also an injustice to the victim and the people of New Orleans because the real perpetrator stays in our community to harm others.”

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