Tulsa jury finds Crawford and Brothers innocent of murder

Tuesday, September 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Were two innocent men charged with a crime they did not commit? Or did they get away with murder? A Tulsa County jury believed the two men on trial for their lives were innocent. After deliberating for almost 35 minutes, the jury decided Robert Brothers and Tyrell Crawford did not kill Jevon Hines in the February 1999.

Police and prosecutors believed Hines was killed, because he was a police snitch who had told officers Crawford had robbed a pawn shop. In fact, Crawford didn't commit the crime. They say Crawford knew that Hines had implicated him, and threatened to kill him. Hines was murdered on February 8, 1999.

Police arrested Crawford and his friend, Robert Brothers, for the murder. The two sat in jail for more than a year before their trial. They left the Tulsa County Courthouse Monday, freed by a Tulsa jury. "Their witnesses were less than truthful, and the jury saw that,” said defense attorney Wayne Copeland. “We had two alibi witnesses. Our clients could not have possibly been there." Those alibi witnesses were the girlfriends of the defendants. One of them had failed a polygraph, which jurors weren't allowed to hear about during testimony.

Another piece of evidence the jury was not allowed to hear was that Brothers had confessed to being present at the shooting. He reportedly told police that Crawford pulled the trigger on Hines for revenge. "He indicated he was under so much pressure from police,” Copeland explained. “He just wanted to get them off his back."

Prosecutors disagree by arguing at the time Brothers confessed, he wasn't even a suspect in the shooting. He was just a witness. "He was brought down and then released,” said Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Larry Edwards. “He wasn't in handcuffs. I don't think it was any more intimidating than any other interview of any other witness."
Edwards admits the case was largely circumstantial, and while he respects jury decisions, he believes there was enough evidence presented to convict both men of Hines murder.

Copeland disagrees and says this is just part of a disturbing trend. "Particularly for black men in America,” he noted. “There's an unprecedented rate of arrest for crimes they didn't commit. Something has to change in our system."

The District Attorney’s office says it bases charges only on the crime, and the evidence available to prosecute it. "I think this office is fair,” Edwards said. “And we look hard at the case, and don't let race or status in anyway affect our decisions."

Copeland believes someone at very least owes Brothers and Crawford an apology for the 18 months they spent in jail for a crime a jury says they didn't commit. The prosecutor says he won't apologize, because he believes the two men got away with murder.

Crawford immediately left the state after being released from jail. Brothers plans go to a vo-tech school, and spend time with his child, who was born while he was behind bars.