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Awaiting decision on new trial, Dwayne Brooks maintains his innocence from prison

Judge's decision expected in January
Posted at 3:36 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-16 10:33:16-05

GRAFTON, Ohio — As he sits in a Grafton prison, waiting to learn if a Cuyahoga County judge will grant his request for a new trial, Dwayne Brooks has new hope that his claims of innocence are finally being heard.

“No one’s believed me,” said Brooks. “I was screaming into the wind for all of these years.”

A jury convicted Brooks for the August 17, 1987, murder of Clinton Arnold at Cleveland’s Luke Easter Park. At 22, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. For nearly three-and-a-half decades, Brooks has maintained he’s not the killer the state says he is.

“It’s terrible, man,” said Brooks. “It’s one of the worst things you could carry around in life, that you killed somebody that you didn’t kill.”

Brooks insists he doesn’t know what happened at the park in August of 1987 because he wasn’t in Cleveland. Brooks, who split time living with family members in both Shaker Heights and Long Island while growing up, claims he was in New York at the time of the shooting. He said he had traveled back to Long Island with family members two days earlier, which is why he wasn’t worried when police arrested him months later.

“I thought it would be a quick process,” said Brooks, “that they would figure out that it wasn’t me. I had nothing to do with it. It didn’t turn out like that.”

Instead, an old fried from high school had cut a deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify that Brooks was the triggerman in the deadly shooting. The jury believed it and convicted Brooks of aggravated murder and other charges.

“When I first got to prison, they slammed the door behind me. I laid on that bunk and I cried. I cried,” said Brooks. “But I still thought that, within some months, whether it was three or six months or even a year, that this conviction would be overturned.”

It wasn’t.

Brooks said a sense of hopelessness began to set in.

That feeling changed last year on the day a packet of police reports from the murder arrived at the prison.

Dwayne Brooks

“I don’t even know what I’ve got at that point,” said Brooks. “I don’t know what it all means. I knew it was big, and I knew it was everything that I had been telling people all of those years.”

Inside the reports were revelations Brooks had never seen, including statements that a witness put two other men in the van used in the deadly shooting and that the man who testified at trial that Brooks was the shooter was himself under FBI investigation.

Gordon Friedman, who represented Brooks during his murder trial, said he saw the reports for the first time last year.

“They never shared the reports with you,” said Friedman. “They never copied the report for you. They never let you read it and take notes for the most part.”

The lead prosecutor on Brooks’ case testified during a hearing that at the time of Brooks’ trial, it was the policy of the prosecutor’s office to not hand over police reports to defense attorneys.

That policy changed in the early 2000s, but Brooks’ new attorney is arguing it cost his client a fair trial.

“The documents that were favorable were withheld, and it would have made a difference,” attorney David Singleton argued during a November hearing on Brooks’ motion for a new trial.

But the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office is fighting that claim.

In a court filing last week, a prosecutor wrote that despite the police reports, there is overwhelming evidence of Brooks’ guilt.

But 35 years after the murder, Brooks said he feels like the truth is now out there for all to see.

“So much weight has been lifted,” said Brooks. I don’t have to scream to the wind anymore. People can read for themselves.”

Now 56, Brooks said he finally wants what he was denied decades ago — a chance at a fair trial.

“I was a killer to them,” said Brooks. “Someone to look down upon. And all the dirt that’s been heaped on me, I keep shaking it off because I know I didn’t do it. And I know I’m not a criminal. I know I’m not supposed to be here.”

A judge is expected to rule on the motion for a new trial early next month.

RELATED: Man convicted of 1987 murder fights for new trial after discovery of recently-uncovered police reports

Man convicted of 1987 murder fights for new trial

RELATED: Did former prosecutor’s policy land innocent people in prison?

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