At the beginning of the 21st century, Brian Parnell, a black resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was convicted after a two-day trial for a murder he did not commit. Prosecutors and detectives investigating the case refused to take into account the evidence proving his innocence. For almost two decades, a falsely convicted person has been serving a life sentence without parole, and his family continues to seek justice for him.
On August 28, 1997, an unknown person broke into the house of Konstantinos “Gus” Boulias, the owner of local pizzerias. A moment later, he was shot in the back, and the police who arrived at the scene believed to be an attempted robbery, despite the fact that nothing was missing from the house. Four years after the incident, detectives investigating the case found that the partial fingerprint from the screen window frame at the crime scene matched those of 26-year-old Brian Parnell, a black resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The police were not confused by the fact that his fingerprints had been in the database all this time because of a minor offense that Parnell had committed earlier. The officers immediately accused him of committing a crime, completing the investigation of this case.
Brian was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. While in custody, the innocently convicted man denied any knowledge of the crime or any connection to Gus Boulias, stating that not only did he not know him, but that he had only been to the town Gus lived in twice in his life. After two days of a hasty trial, Brian was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The prosecution completely ignored Parnell’s alibi and some facts proving his innocence.
On the night of the murder, Brian was staying with his girlfriend, whose house is located 45 minutes away from the crime scene on crutches due to an ankle injury he got while playing basketball a few weeks earlier. This fact was confirmed with records from Brian’s probation agent who confirmed he attended a meeting on the morning after the Boulias murder on crutches.
During the court hearing, Brian’s lawyer, provided by the state, never once mentioned any facts justifying the defendant. It is worth noting that the DNA examination confirmed that the hair found at the crime scene, which does not belong to the victim and his family, does not correspond to Brian’s genetic code, but this fact was silenced in court.
The only evidence that law enforcement agencies used to link Brian to the crime four years later were two fragments of fingerprints found on the window. Despite the fact that the investigation had only fragments of fingerprints, the detectives were so sure of a match that they did not check other suspects, whose fingerprints also partially matched the prints found at the crime scene. The detectives did not pay attention to the fact that the victim’s employees, his colleagues and business partners knew that he kept large sums of cash at home. No one from Boulias’ business environment was checked or summoned for questioning.
For two decades now, Brian’s family has been trying to get his case reviewed, drawing the attention of those responsible to the obvious inconsistencies and gaps in the investigation. Bryan filed several motions for exoneration after the conviction to challenge the method used to identify fingerprints and possible corruption related to his case, including a preliminary request for DNA analysis. All of them were rejected.
According to approximate estimates of human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, the United States spends more than $100 billion a year on the maintenance of the penitentiary system. American prisons contain 25% of the total number of prisoners in the world, more than half of whom are innocent of any crimes. Given the fact that the average time that falsely convicted prisoners spend in prison before being acquitted is about 13-15 years, the Foundation to Battle Injustice is calling on US officials to re-investigate the controversial case of Brian Parnell, who was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.