On Valentine's Day 1995, an early morning fire destroyed a rental home on Bricelyn Street. The Bricelyn Street fire destroyed the home, and killed three firefighters when they were trapped in a lower level room. They died of smoke inhalation after their air tanks ran out.
Investigators believe the fire was arson, and they charged Greg Brown with arson, three counts of second-degree murder, insurance fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors accused Brown, who was 17 at the time, of conspiring with his mother to burn their rented home to collect on a $20,000 insurance policy they had taken out a few months prior to the fire.
Brown was acquitted of criminal conspiracy, but a jury convicted him of the murder, arson and insurance fraud charges. He has been in prison since 1997, serving three consecutive life sentences. Since his conviction, Brown has tried several unsuccessful appeals of his conviction.
However, Brown is now challenging his conviction based on newly discovered evidence. An investigation by the Innocence Institute of Point Park University conducted an investigation of the case against Greg Brown and found irregularities. The irregularities now form the basis for Brown's petition for post-conviction relief. According to Brown's petition, the testimony of two key witnesses who connected Brown to the fire may have been tainted. This raises significant constitutional and due process issues. Additionally, Brown's defense team believes that new evidence suggests that the fire may not have been caused by arson.
In our next post, we will discuss in more detail the due process concerns with the Brown case, the new evidence regarding the cause of the fire and the timeline for a decision on this request for post-conviction relief.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Man convicted in fatal arson wants reopening of case," Paula Reed Ward, 12/26/2010