Albert Brown admits to 1981 killing of Tulsa firefighter

Tuesday, May 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A man, who promised he was innocent of murder, pleads guilty to the charge.

As the News on Six first told you Monday night, Albert Brown testified in court Monday that he and another man killed Tulsan Earl Taylor back in 1988. Brown said they bound and gagged Taylor, threw him in the trunk of a car, then, dumped him in a lake. Taylor was alive at the time and drowned.

DNA evidence set Brown free just a few months ago and he proclaimed his innocence, so why this turn-around? And, does it mean we can't trust DNA testing? News on Six crime reporter Lori Fullbright takes a closer look. The most important thing to remember about this case is DNA evidence might've set Brown free, but it never cleared him. It only affected one piece of evidence, a strand of hair, just like in other cases, where one piece of evidence is thrown out, like a confession or a search warrant, it doesn't ruin the entire case, and it just changes it.

The piece of evidence at issue in this case was a strand of hair found in the trunk of the car used to transport the victim, Earl Taylor. 20 years ago, at the time of Brown's trial, scientists used blood serology to evaluate hair samples and could only say it was probable that it belonged to Brown. Dr Valerie Fuller, DNA analyst: "If you could narrow things down in the old days to one in five or one in 10 or one in a thousand, that was great, now, that's laughable. Now, you can narrow things down to one in 80 trillion."

That's why when DNA came along, Brown wanted that hair re-tested and sure enough, it wasn't his hair, it was the victim's. Prosecutors agreed to let Brown out of prison, but, announced on April 16th, they planned to re-try the case based on all the other evidence, including a witness who said Brown told him "they're going to be looking for me because we killed a guy and put him in a creek with a rock on him."

So, instead of facing another trial, Brown decided to come clean. Experts say the science of DNA testing is a sure thing, but interpreting the results depends on your point of view. "A lot of times, if you have a rape suspect who says it was consensual, you can have tons of DNA evidence and it means nothing, but, on the other hand, if the suspect says he's never seen the victim and you find his DNA, it means a lot."

Earl Taylor's family is glad Brown has admitted to the murder and agreed to testify against Danny Rogers, a man long suspected, but never charged in the crime. Taylor’s nephew didn't want to talk.

Scientists say this case should not cause anyone to doubt the accuracy of DNA testing, because it never did clear Brown of the crime, it simply changed one piece of evidence. Which is different than say in a rape case where semen is the only evidence and DNA proves it didn't come from the suspect, then that entire case would be overturned.