My Brother Was Wrongfully Convicted for Murder. 20 Years Later, So Was My Son.

Although it was a coincidence, I knew it wasn’t a mistake. What Louisiana was doing to men like my brother Elvis and my son Cedric was intentional.

From left: Earline Brooks Colbert, her son Cedric Dent, and her brother Elvis Brooks. 

The year my son Cedric Dent was sent to prison for a murder he didn’t commit, it changed everything for me and my family. Except for one thing: the trips I took to Louisiana State Penitentiary to see him. Those, I was used to — because I had already been making them for the last 20 years to visit my brother, another Black man locked up for a murder he didn’t commit.

This article was published in partnership with Verite.

My brother, Elvis Brooks, was arrested in 1977 for a murder at a New Orleans bar during a robbery. During his one-day trial, 13 witnesses — including me — testified that Elvis was home at the time on the night of the crime. Instead, the jury believed the testimony of three White patrons in the bar who said my brother did it, even though one had been unable to identify him before the trial. We would later find out that the robbers had touched two beer cans in the bar and left partial fingerprints, which were not a match for Elvis.

None of that mattered. Growing up in New Orleans in the 1970s, it often felt like police and prosecutors didn’t care anything about justice — they were just out to control and re-enslave Black men. Elvis, who was only 19 at the time of the robbery and murder, avoided the death penalty by a single juror’s vote.

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