Family in shock over man's return to prison after being freed on appeal

Adam Braseel
Adam Braseel
photo Adam Braseel stands with an unidentified woman.

Adam Braseel's 10 months of freedom from prison ended Friday after the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals overturned a 2015 post-conviction ruling that had reversed his murder convictions and freed him.

Braseel, 33, now is back behind bars with his convictions reinstated for first-degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and assault, according to appeals court documents filed Friday.

On Monday, his sister, Christina Braseel, said the family was "in shock" over Friday's ruling and further shocked he was jailed so quickly the same day.

"Adam's a very strong man and he's a very faithful man and he knows he'll grow from all this," the sister said.

Braseel was released from prison on a December 2015 post-conviction trial court ruling by Circuit Court Judge Justin Angel. The hearing was held in November 2015.

Christina Braseel said prosecutors "are being vindictive and malicious, intentionally."

Family and friends are already working to raise money for a possible $25,000 added bond, she said. Her brother had been free on a $150,000 bond since the December ruling pending an appeals court decision. Appeals court officials said last week that Braseel could post an additional $25,000 bond if the defense files a petition to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, but prosecutors are fighting that.

Twelfth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain opposed setting a bond when Braseel's convictions were reinstated, and said Monday prosecutors have asked the Tennessee Attorney General's Office for an opinion on the issue.

Strain was the prosecutor in the original trial.

"My position from day one is that Judge Angel found things [in his December ruling] that were not supported by the trial record at all, nor at the post-conviction hearing did Braseel's lawyer put in additional fact as to the identification issue," Strain said Monday.

Court documents state Braseel claimed his counsel was ineffective because his lawyers failed to challenge the admissibility of a photo lineup in which he was identified as the assailant and for not challenging an alleged "misidentification" by assault victim Rebecca Hill of someone other than Braseel.

Braseel's lawyer, Knoxville-attorney Douglas Trant, could not be reached Monday.

Braseel was sentenced in 2007 to life in prison with the possibility of parole in the shooting death of Malcolm Burrows and assault on Hill. According to appellate court documents, the state at trial primarily relied on testimony of the deceased victim's sister, Hill, and his nephew, Kirk Braden. Two other witnesses testified about seeing a car like Braseel's at the Burrow's house.

Hill, who has since died, identified Braseel from a photo lineup when she regained consciousness four or five days later and Braden "made an unsolicited identification of [Braseel] from a set of photographs," records state.

Court records note that "[t]here was no physical evidence linking [Braseel] to the crimes."

Braseel relied on an alibi defense with testimony from several witnesses and Braseel himself "claiming that he was with a group of people four-wheeling in a nearby town, Coalmont, on the night of the victim's death," record state.

In his post-conviction appeal in a hearing before Angel, Braseel alleged he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After taking the matter under advisement Angel granted relief, finding that Braseel's lawyers were ineffective and ordering a new trial. Braseel alleges in the appeal that Braden was shown a "single-photo" lineup that his lawyers should have sought to suppress and that counsel should have challenged the identification made by Hill.

However, in the appeals court ruling handed down last week state justices ruled that there was no guarantee that such a motion would have been successful, and that the claim that Hill misidentified Braseel in the courtroom was not supported by the original trial transcripts. Appeals judges wrote there was "no probability" the results of the original trial would be different than it was the first time around.

Christina Braseel said her brother wants to prove his innocence.

"He wants people not to just think he's innocent, but he wants them to read that he's innocent and believe in him," she said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.

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