Ossie Brown

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Ossie B. Brown
District Attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish
In office
1972–1984
Preceded by Sargent Pitcher, Jr.
Succeeded by Bryan Bush
Personal details
Born (1926-03-19)March 19, 1926
Winnfield, Winn Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died August 28, 2008(2008-08-28) (aged 82)
Baton Rouge
East Baton Rouge Parish
Louisiana
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Faye Underwood Brown (married ca. 1960–2008, his death)
Children

Kirk Brown
Dana Brent Brown
Kelli Brown Leon

Four grandchildren
Alma mater

Baker High School
Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University Law Center
Occupation Attorney
Religion Baptist

(1) As a criminal private defense attorney, Brown in 1970 won acquittal of one of the twenty-six men prosecuted in the My Lai Massacre.

(2) As the East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney, Brown railed against narcotics and pornography and developed a reputation as a morals crusader.

(3) In 1973, Brown succeeded in blocking the airing in Baton Rouge of the film Last Tango in Paris starring Marlon Brando.

(4) In 1984, Brown escaped federal conviction of extortion, mail fraud, and perjury in a case stemming from the failure to prosecute two men for possession of cocaine.

(5) An active Baptist, Brown was an accomplished musician and as a child had composed his high school's alma mater.

(6) In 1984, Brown declared that God wanted him to seek a third term as district attorney, but he was defeated by the Republican Bryan Bush.

Ossie B. Brown (March 19, 1926 – August 28, 2008) was a Baton Rouge Democrat who served two six-year terms as district attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, from 1972 to 1984. In 1970, he successfully defended United States Army Sergeant David Mitchell in the My Lai Massacre cases. Brown was also a talented musician and an active Baptist layman.

Ossie (pronounced OH SEE) Brown was born to George F. Brown and the former Lovie Phenald in Winnfield, the seat of government of Winn Parish and the traditional home of the Long political dynasty. He was reared in Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish and graduated from Baker High School, where he was named president of Boys State and composed the Baker High alma mater. He attended Napa Junior College in Napa, California, and then entered the United States Navy during World War II. Thereafter, he procured his Bachelor of Arts degree in pre-law from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he was the university drum major. He lettered in basketball and tennis and was president of Sigma Chi social fraternity. Brown then graduated from the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and launched a half-century-long criminal law practice in Baton Rouge. Prior to his tenure as district attorney, he was the Baton Rouge municipal court judge.[1] In 1970, former LSU quarterback and future East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Pat Screen joined Brown's firm.[2]

The My Lai case[edit]

Brown's most memorable court victory was in the 1970 trial of Sergeant Mitchell (born 1940) held at Fort Hood in central Texas. Mitchell was accused by the Army of having committed war crimes against the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. Brown predicted that Mitchell's prosectors, who rested their arguments early, had not "proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt." The next day, Brown collapsed in his motel room and was later taken to a hospital in Temple in Bell County. The judge, Colonel George R. Robinson, adjourned the case until Brown's recovery.[3]

One of the witnesses against Mitchell was former radioman Charles Sledge (born 1947), an African American luggage-factory worker from Sardis in Panola County in northwestern Mississippi. Sledge said that he "positively" saw Mitchell shoot a group of Vietnamese women, children, and senior men who took cover in a ditch. Sledge also said that he saw Mitchell confer with Second Lieutenant William Calley Jr., at the edge of the trench before the two opened fire on the villagers from about five or six feet away. "They were falling and screaming," Sledge testified. Calley, meanwhile, was tried November 16, 1970, at Fort Benning, Georgia. Brown brought out several discrepancies between Sledge's courtroom statements and his earlier testimony before Army investigators; one was Sledge's earlier claim that he "believed" Mitchell had fired into the ditch and his claim at the trial that he was "positive" that Mitchell had killed the civilians.[3]

Other controversies[edit]

As DA, Brown was involved in several controversies. In 1975, he dropped twenty-six felony counts against Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dave L. Pearce on grounds of Pearce's age and the state of Pearce's health. In 1984, as his tenure wound down, Brown was indicted by a federal grand jury for extortion, mail fraud, and perjury after he failed to indict two men for possession of ten grams of cocaine. The day after the East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury declined to take action against the two suspects, the wealthy father of one of the men lent Brown $168,000. A state district judge testified that Brown had asked him to suppress evidence in the case. Brown was acquitted and said that God wanted him to seek a third term. He had during his tenure crusaded against narcotics and pornography. Though Brown had been the first EBR DA in memory to have been unopposed for a second term in 1978, he was defeated in 1984 by the Republican Bryan Edward Bush, Jr., who was unseated after one term.[4]

In 1973, Brown prevented Baton Rouge theaters from showing the NC-13-rated film Last Tango in Paris with Marlon Brando. So had the Rapides Parish District Attorney Edwin O. Ware, III, acted accordingly. In 1979, Brown blocked the showing of the comedy, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Brown asked Baton Rouge magazine distributors not to offer the March 1977 issue of Hustler, which a state court judge in Ohio ruled obscene.[5]

In 1980, the African-American attorney Murphy Bell filed suit against the city of Baton Rouge and District Attorney Brown regarding civil rights protection for African-American suspects. The suit, which stemmed from the accidental fatal shooting by police of a black teenager named Clarence Morrison, Jr. (born ca. 1963), claimed, among various allegations, that Brown had used the grand jury investigative procedure as a "legal backup" to support arbitrary actions by the police department. The city and Brown, however, prevailed in the initial court and on appeal.[6]

Activities as DA[edit]

During his time as district attorney, Brown was elected president of both the Louisiana State and the National District Attorney's associations. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Baton Rouge Rape Crisis Center, the Pretrial Intervention Program, the Victim and Witness Assistance Program, and "I Care", a drug prevention program. Brown served too on the executive council of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. He was chairman of the first child abuse committee formed by the National District Attorney's Association. He wrote You and the Law, a book used in civics classes in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.[1]

Civic leadership, death and legacy[edit]

He was a member of the advisory board of the Salvation Army and the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America Istrouma Council. He also worked in the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. He hosted the Lions Club Crippled Children's Telethon. He supported the Louisiana Baptist Children's Home orphanage in Monroe. Since 1964, Brown had been an active member of the Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, where he taught the Fellowship Bible class. Earlier, he had been music director of various churches.[1]

After he left the office of district attorney, Brown resumed his law practice until he retired in the year 2000 from the still existing offices of Ossie Brown at 123 St. Ferdinand Street in Baton Rouge. One of the partners is Brown's son, Dana Brent Brown.[7]

Services were held on August 30, 2008, at the Florida Boulevard Baptist Church. Entombment was in the Green Oaks Memorial Park Mausoleum. Brown was survived by his wife of forty-eight years, the former Faye Underwood (born November 5, 1931); two sons, Dana Brown (born July 10, 1962) and wife Natalie (born November 29, 1970) and Kirk Brown of Napa, California; daughter, Kelli B. Leon (born December 24, 1968) of Baton Rouge; four grandchildren, Brycyn Brown, Max Brown, and Alexa and Amber Leon; and four great-grandchildren.

Current EBR District Attorney Hillar Moore, III, told the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate that Brown "stood for certain principles and took positions that were always firm. He was always for the victims of crime." Moore said that when he worked for Brown as an investigator while he was still in college and that the DA "adopted me as a son."[5] Moore, who supported Brown in the 1984 election, remained an investigator under DA Bryan Bush despite their partisan difference.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Advocate Obituaries: Ossie Brown", Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, August 30, 2008: http://www.legacy.com/theadvocate/DeathNotices.asp?Page=Lifestory&PersonId=116574977
  2. ^ "James E. Shelledy, "Walter Monsour, the most powerful man you've never voted for"". batonrouge.com. Retrieved December 2, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "The My Lai Trials Begin", Time, November 2, 1970: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,909677-2,00.html
  4. ^ Ben Toledano, "Laissez les bons temps rouler: Louisiana in its pre-modern era", National Review, BNET Business Review on-line, August 15, 1986: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_v38/ai_4328771/pg_8
  5. ^ a b Steven Ward, "Former DA Ossie Brown dies at 82", Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, August 29, 2008, p. 1
  6. ^ "Mrs. Susie Lite MORRISON and Clarence Morrison, Sr., Mother and Father of Deceased Clarence Morrison, Jr., suing on their behalf and as Administrators of Clarence Morrison, Jr., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF BATON ROUGE et al., Defendants-Appellees, including East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Ossie B. Brown, 1980:http://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/614/614.F2d.77.79-2532.html
  7. ^ Law Offices of Ossie Brown, St. Ferdinand St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802:http://pview.findlaw.com/view/2267741_1
Preceded by
Sargent Pitcher, Jr.
District Attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana

Ossie B. Brown
1972–1984

Succeeded by
Bryan Edward Bush, Jr.