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Circuit Court of Grundy County

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Tennessee prosecutors are seeking the dismissal of a petition for a new trial sought by a man convicted of murder by a Grundy County jury in 2007 in a killing the defendant claims someone else committed.

In 2007, 23-year-old Adam Clyde Braseel was sentenced to serve life in prison for first-degree murder in the 2006 beating death of 60-year-old Tracy City resident Malcolm Burrows and the assault on Burrows' sister, Rebecca Hill.

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Adam Clyde Braseel
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Adam Braseel, center, is embraced by his sister, Christina Braseel, left, and mother, Imojean Braseel-Davis, during a 2017 visit at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, west of Pikeville, Tenn.

Braseel filed in February a petition for a new trial based on "new evidence" in the case after the release of fingerprint evidence found in Burrows' car at the crime scene in 2006. That fingerprint wasn't identified until last year when the TBI matched it to another man, Kermit Bryson, who in 2008 shot and killed Grundy County deputy Shane Tate, then took his own life later the same day. Braseel contends he and Bryson resemble each other, the cars they drove at the time were similar and that a wallet was found on Burrows by an investigator who never testified at Braseel's trial, while the state contended the motive was a robbery because the wallet was said not to have been found.

Braseel's lawyer, Alex Little, contends the presence of the wallet "flatly destroys the government's case and makes it clear that — had the new evidence been admitted at trial — the jury's verdict would have been different," court records state.

The state's response to Braseel's petition, filed in Grundy County Circuit Court by 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain, calls for a dismissal of the petition.

The state's response admits Bryson's fingerprint was found in Burrows' car, "however, there is no way to know when the fingerprint was placed there," Strain wrote. "The mere presence of the print does not warrant a new trial as called for in the Petition."

The state's response also contends Bryson's actions in the years after Burrows' killing are inadmissible in court, and that there are no "objective similarities" between the Burrows slaying and the killing of Deputy Tate. Bryson's appearance in 2006 "differed substantially" from the photo Braseel's petition contains. The state contends that photo was from "several years before" Burrows' slaying. The car Bryson was said to have been driving, the state contends, did not run at the time of the slaying.

Also, Kirk Braden, present at Burrows' home during the attack on the now-deceased Hill, identified Braseel early in the investigation and at trial, and also identified a ball cap seen on the attacker and found in Braseel's car, the state contends.

Braseel was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole, court records show. Prosecutors have said he will serve at least 51 years behind bars before parole eligibility. By then, he would be in his mid-70s.

A 2011 appeal was denied, but the case took a positive turn for Braseel in 2015 when a new Circuit Court judge in the case, Justin Angel, overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial, records show. Braseel was released while the state appealed.

Ten months later, he was back in prison after the Court of Criminal Appeals reinstated the original conviction.

In 2017, Braseel sought a review by the Tennessee Supreme Court, but the court declined to take up the case, so he filed a motion in federal court in Winchester, Tennessee, to preserve his rights with respect to the original post-conviction petitions. That petition remains there awaiting resolution of pending state court filings.

In March, current Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum — who wasn't involved in the investigation — weighed in on the case to call for a new trial. He said the investigation appeared to be filled with problems, based on case information he's been exposed to since becoming sheriff.

A hearing on Braseel's petition and the state's response before Judge Angel is set for June.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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