Crime & Courts

South Carolina Justice Review: The Conviction Of Anthony L. Brown

Twenty years later, a convicted murderer protests his innocence …

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Carolyn Maloney was a beloved member of the Walterboro, South Carolina community. Her shocking murder two decades ago sent shockwaves throughout Colleton County – an outrage that demanded justice.

Maloney was co-owner of Maloney Concrete – her family business – in partnership with her son. She was also a mother to three daughters – and a grandmother to eight. She volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and was active Canaan Baptist Church.

After her murder, a plaque memorializing her was ceremoniously hung on the wall of Ruffin High School – where she had been a member of the reunion committee for the class of 1967. At Ruffin Middle School, a fundraiser was launched in her memory to pay for the installation of central heat and air in the gymnasium.

Meanwhile, a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement investigation was underway. The Colleton County sheriff’s office took the lead – with assistance from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)’s forensic team.

Two weeks after Maloney was murdered, on April 27, 2004, the sheriff’s office announced a $2,500 award for “information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the crime.” On April 28, 2004, four suspects were arrested and charged for the crime – which was described as a “robbery gone wrong.”

According to former Colleton County sheriff Allan Beach, the local community was tremendously helpful and supportive of the investigation.

“This is largely attributed to the character and reputation of Carolyn Maloney and her standing in the community,” Beach told The (Walterboro) Press and Standard.

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THE CRIME …

The targeted act of violence that claimed Maloney’s life occurred on the morning of Tuesday, April 13, 2004. Rainy weather in Walterboro that morning meant a day off for construction workers like those employed by Maloney Concrete. Carolyn Maloney was working in the Acorn Road office of her family business – babysitting two of her youngest grandchildren. Due to the rain, no other employees were in the office. Her daughter, Carol Maple, dropped the two grandchildren off – promising to return shortly with lunch.

According to investigators, sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., a person or persons entered Maloney Concrete intending to commit robbery. They went into the office and fired one fatal shot – killing Carol Maloney.

When Carol’s daughter returned to the office with lunch, she found her mother dead – and her babies covered in blood. Her mother was sitting in a chair with the 20-month-old child on her lap. The five-month-old baby was at her feet.  Thankfully, neither child was harmed.

Fifteen days after the shooting – and one day after the reward money was announced – the aforementioned four suspects were arrested and charged with armed robbery and murder. All four suspects gave wildly different accounts of their activities on the day of the murder. Adding another layer of confusion to the case, two of the suspects had the same name. 

Within three months all four suspects – April Hampton, Raye Nelson, Anthony T. Brown and Anthony L. Brown – were indicted by the solicitor from the S.C. fourteenth judicial circuit, Randolph Murdaugh III.

More on that now-infamous name in a moment …

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Hampton and Anthony T. Brown gave self-incriminating statements as to their involvement. Shoe prints put Hampton at the scene, while tire treads matched tires on Raye Nelson’s car. A weapon was surrendered by Anthony T. Brown. A flowered purse was seized at the home of Anthony L. Brown’s grandmother. Other items said to have been stolen from the scene were located as search warrants were executed at the defendants’ homes.  

In 2007, S.C. circuit court judge Carmen T. Mullen – another key figure in the Murdaugh saga – accepted three guilty pleas for the armed robbery in which Maloney was shot and killed. Mullen handed out sentences of 20 years for Nelson, 25 years for Hampton, and 30 years for Anthony T. Brown.

Anthony L. Brown pleaded guilty to murder and armed robbery and received a sentence of 40 years with the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC).

All subsequent appeals involving the four have been dismissed without any alteration or reduction of sentence.

So it was that justice was served.  

Or was it?

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THE PLEA …

Nearly halfway through his murder sentence, Anthony L. Brown has applied to the Innocence Project for help with his case. The Innocence Project is a nonprofit organization providing expert legal representation free of charge for people it believes have been wrongfully convicted.

Anthony L. Brown recently shared his Innocence Project application with our media outlet. He applied in October 2022 and his case is still under review. It is unclear whether his application will be accepted – or when he can expect a decision. Since the founding of The Innocence Project in 1992, the organization has received 65,600 requests for assistance from inmates – and each one is read and reviewed – so the application process is a lengthy one.

According to The Innocence Project website, between 2.3 and 5 percent of all prisoners in the United States are not guilty of the crimes for which they have been sentenced. If only one percent of all prisoners are innocent, that would mean more than 20,000 innocent people are currently in prison. The website also notes that most felony convictions do not come about as the result of a jury trial. Ninety-five percent are the result of a plea deal.

In Brown’s application, he contends he is not guilty of the murder of Carolyn Maloney – or the armed robbery of Maloney Concrete. With the exception of his plea, this is what he has been saying all along as his case made its way through the system – and as he exhausted the legal remedies available for appealing the sentence without success.  

Brown’s sentence is being served day-for-day. In the parlance of jail math, that means Brown is not eligible for early release based on parole or good time, or any other calculation. His release date is April 18, 2044.   

(Click to View)

Anthony L. Brown (Provided)

In 2004, Anthony L. Brown was a short-term employee of Maloney Concrete. He worked there for about one month. His employment ended about three weeks prior to the murder when he quit to take other employment in the form of a painting job – another endeavor in which rainy days meant lost work.

Anthony L. Brown was known to the members of law enforcement in Walterboro and Colleton County.  As a juvenile, he had several run-ins with the law. In 2003, at the age of 21, he was charged with assault and battery. At trial, however, the jury found him not guilty.

Six months later, Colleton County deputies arrested two Anthony Browns and charged them both with the murder of Carolyn Maloney.

Anthony L. Brown’s murder trial was set to begin in July 2007. The jury had been seated when his defense attorney came to him with a last-minute plea deal and a warning. According to Brown’s attorney, public sentiment was strongly in favor of  a conviction – and justice for Maloney’s murderer. The three co-defendants had taken plea deals on condition of their willingness to testify against him. Fearing he might face the death penalty or life in prison, on the advice of his attorney, Anthony L. Brown pleaded guilty for a negotiated sentence.

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POST-CONVICTION CLAIMS

In addition to his claim of innocence, Anthony L. Brown insists his rights were violated as he was repeatedly denied due process. He cites a succession of examples of these failures.

Obviously, the claim that Brown was denied due process is significantly easier to verify or disprove than his claim of innocence – especially considering the age of the crime.

If Anthony L. Brown was indeed denied due process, he may be entitled to a review of his case on those grounds – much in the same way allegations of jury tampering resulted in an evidentiary hearing for convicted killer Alex Murdaugh. The question in such hearings is not about criminal guilt or innocence – but about the judicial process and whether it resulted in a fair trial under the law.   

If Anthony L. Brown is an innocent man who has been wrongfully convicted, he would not be the only one failed by the system. If he is not the person who pulled the trigger that ended Maloney’s life, then she and all of those who mourned her loss have also been denied justice.

To have Brown’s innocence claim heard in court, the defendant would likely need to provide compelling new evidence – or evidence of wrongful prosecution. Even then, such a request could be denied by a judge. If his claims cannot be confirmed or disproved, nothing changes. Anthony L. Brown will remain where he is until April 18, 2044. 

Even if his claims prove to be true, the odds are solidly stacked against him. The Innocence Project exists because of the lengthy and difficult process involved in taking such claims to court.  

So far, a review of the available documentation raises more questions than answers. Anthony L. Brown calls his case “bizarre” – a sentiment he associates with his meetings with several attorneys who have given his papers a once-over and then passed them back to him before walking away, disinclined to offer representation.  

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A LAST RESORT – AGAINST THE ODDS

If anything is clear, it is that Brown and his loved ones believe sharing his Innocence Project application with FITSNews is an opportunity to have his case heard in the court of public opinion. That is a risky last resort, though.

It is their hope that telling his story would attract the kind of attention that could lead to change – and freedom. 

They have observed with interest as some of the same individuals involved in Brown’s case made international headlines as characters in the Murdaugh drama. Aside from Randolph Murdaugh III’s role as Brown’s prosecutor and Carmen Mullen’s role as the judge who accepted his plea, Brown’s post-conviction relief was denied by Perry Buckner, another judge with Murdaugh ties. As the once-powerful Murdaugh legal dynasty began losing its stranglehold over criminal justice in the fourteenth circuit, Brown’s supporters were encouraged by the crumbling of the façade and hoped more would be revealed about his case. They resolved to contact members of the media covering the Murdaugh saga to ask for coverage of his case.

Brown’s supporters also observed the manner in which Adnan Syed’s murder conviction was vacated by the state of Maryland in 2022 after his story was told on the Serial podcast and followed by millions. Yet, even this seemingly victorious example is in many respects a cautionary tale. 

The Serial podcast made a case for Syed’s innocence in 2014. Although he was released from prison, the process took eight long years – and at this point nothing is guaranteed. The hearing in which Syed’s conviction was vacated resulted in an appeal from the victim’s family who say they did not have sufficient notice to attend the proceedings. The case is headed to the Maryland supreme court and Syed’s new found liberty may not last. 

Even so, the Syed story represents the best-case scenario for prisoners like Brown who hope to somehow overcome their own self-proclaimed “wrongful conviction.” There are few other notable examples to call upon. 

According to the National Exoneration Registry, 2022 was a record year with 238 exonerations. On December 31, 2022, the national prison population was 1,230,100

By those numbers, the odds of an individual being exonerated – no matter how innocent – fall somewhere between the odds of being struck by lightning and the odds of winning the lottery. 

In order to investigate the claims asserted in the Innocence Project application for Anthony L. Brown, FITSNews filed FOIA requests with the Walterboro Police Department, Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the S.C. Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, Colleton County Clerk of Court’s office, South Carolina Department of Corrections, and South Carolina Criminal Justice Training Academy.

FITSNews also reached out to Brown’s defense attorney and co-defendants to request information about the case.

In reporting on criminal activities of any kind, FITSNews always includes a reminder that the accused are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law – or until they plead guilty. Once that happens, we presume the verdicts are just and true – and proven in front of impartial, fair juries “beyond a reasonable doubt.” We also presume the plea deals are valid. Even after a matter has been adjudicated, though, FITSNews is always willing to pursue claims of innocence.  The objective is to fully investigate the claims – and follow the truth wherever it may lead.

No media outlet in South Carolina has expended as much bandwidth as FITSNews when it comes to holding violent criminals accountable for their actions. And no media outlet has done as much as ours in standing up for victims of violent crime. But consistent with our open microphone policy, we are always willing to let those accused of such horrific crimes make their case.

How will this story end? Stay tuned …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher and author. Her 2007 book ‘Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal’ was the first to cover forever chemicals and their impact on communities – a story later told in the movie ‘Dark Waters’. Her investigative work has been featured in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world. Lyons also appears in ‘Citizen Sleuth’ – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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