Missing Leg

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The fact that Brown ended up on America's Most Wanted may indicate problems in the case, Rosendahl says. Brown's parents and others have testified that he was living at home during the time police say he was on the lam, and his doctors affirm that he came several times a week for checkups at the West Palm hospital. Churchill says deputies went to the Jensen Beach home of Brown's parents but never made contact with anybody. The sergeant says they were hampered by the fact that they don't have the right to arrest someone in Martin County, relying instead on local law enforcement to tag along. "We did a lot to look for him," Churchill says. "That, I can assure you."

At a recent court hearing, Brown's mother, Margaret Green, disagreed. "My baby, he was with us the whole time," Green said, after angling her son's wheelchair out of the courtroom doors. "Then they put him on TV and said he was a criminal. It's not right what they did to him. It's not right." Even the family of Porsha Davis has backed Brown's attempts to clear his name, testifying in court about his good character and asking the state to drop the charges.

Perhaps most damning to the state's case, however, is the DNA evidence investigators collected from inside the Toyota. Investigators hoped some of the blood found on the driver's side of the car would lead to Brown, a clear-cut sign that he was driving. In November of last year, the sheriff's office crime lab issued its analysis of the blood samples, finding that the blood on the driver's-side door belonged to Jerome Maynor. In the report, Senior Forensic Scientist Tara L. Sessa determined: "Duane Brown... is excluded as a contributor to this DNA profile."

Judging by his record, Jerome "High Class" Maynor may have had more to do with the fatal chase than cops first claimed. Brown knew that his friend, whom he met ten years ago when Maynor was dating his sister, had just gotten out of jail. But he didn't know the details of what Maynor had done to get there. In fact, his conviction had also had to do with a crime committed behind a steering wheel.

On February 15, 1997, Stuart Police Officer John Miedzianowski pulled Maynor over for driving erratically. Maynor had a cooler with open liquor bottles in the back seat, Martin County court records show, and Miedzianowski ordered him to get out of the car. Maynor refused, and the cop reached inside to pull him out. Maynor then shut his window on the cop's arm. As Miedzianowski struggled to free himself, Maynor slammed the car in reverse, crashing into the police cruiser behind him. Miedzianowski finally broke free by smashing the window with his left hand, and Maynor sped off, weaving recklessly through traffic on U.S. 1 in Stuart. He sideswiped two cars before finally stopping for cops about five miles after the chase began. A judge sentenced Maynor to 36 months in prison for aggravated fleeing, leaving the scene of a crash, and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. Maynor got out of prison June 28, 2002, the day before the fiery crash that claimed his life.

Before they left Brown's home in Jensen Beach, Brown says, he asked Maynor to drive his car because he had burned his left leg on the exhaust pipe of a friend's dirt bike. There are witnesses who can vouch for the nasty, open sore on his leg before the accident, Brown says, and his mother readily backs him up. "He wasn't driving no car," she says. "I know he wasn't because he couldn't. Not with that burn on his leg that day, he couldn't."

Brown claims that when he heard the details of what put Maynor behind bars, it made sense of the image he had in the hospital. "He was driving my car. He kept saying, 'I'm not going back. '"

Brown himself doesn't have a clean past. A judge sentenced him to 60 days in jail in 1999 for felony possession of coke. Before that, he served a month for carrying a concealed firearm, and he spent more than a year at the Hendry Work Camp prison in 1996 for burglary and possession of burglary tools, according to state records. But Brown insists he's been living a quiet, law-abiding life for the past five years.

Rosendahl speculates that Brown's past is the reason the cops wanted him so badly. Questions about the alleged drug bust, the DNA evidence, and the other problems with the police investigation should be enough to convince a jury of Brown's innocence, she contends. Says Rosendahl: "You've got enough questions out there to really make anyone doubt this one. No one can say for sure that Duane Brown was driving, and all the hard evidence points to the fact that he wasn't."

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Eric Alan Barton
Contact: Eric Alan Barton