Clarence Brandley

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This film was made possible thanks to the generous support of Associate Producer Stephen Griffin.

clarencecropQuick Look Stats


IN PRISON FOR: 10 YEARS

TIME ON DEATH ROW: 10 YEARS

RELEASED: 1990

FILM FOCUSES ON: RACISM

CONVICTED IN: CONROE, TEXAS

LEGAL REVIEW: Read a legal review of Clarence’s case

YOUR QUESTIONS: Check out Clarence’s answers to the questions you submitted.

CLARENCE’S STORY (thanks to Witness to Innocence)

The Crime_small


Clarence Brandley was working as a high school custodian in Conroe, Texas, in 1980, when police arrested him for the murder of Cheryl Fergeson, a 16-year-old white student. When his white co-workers voiced suspicion of Clarence, the only black man on the staff, he was quickly arrested and charged.
While the police interviewed Brandley and one of his white co-workers, an interrogator proclaimed that, “One of you two is going to hang for this,” and told Clarence, “Since you’re the nigger, you’re elected.”

The Trial_small


In his first trial he faced an all-white jury. One juror refused to convict, causing a hung jury, and was met with a constant barrage of harassment and threats after the trial ended. Clarence’s second all-white jury convicted him, and in 1981 he was sentenced to death.

A year later it was revealed that the majority of the murder investigation’s physical evidence had mysteriously disappeared while under police control. In 1986 a new witness stepped forward claiming to know the real murderer. Yet Clarence’s defense was repeatedly denied a new trial. Mere weeks before Clarence’s scheduled execution in March 1987, PI James McCloskey joined his legal team and contributed to the first major break in the case. The original testimony of the other custodians was recanted after it was revealed that investigators had coerced their stories. Furthermore, when the blatant racism of the first two trials was discovered, the FBI decided to intervene, and Clarence was granted a new trial and exonerated. Amazingly, it took three more years for Clarence to be was released from Texas’ death row.

Post Exoneration_small


Clarence now advocates for abolition of the death penalty by telling his story of racial bigotry and unfair conviction of a crime he did not commit. His story is the subject of the book White Lies by Nick Davies and a made for cable TV movie, “Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story.”