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Nevada Inmate Released From Prison After 33 Years on Death Row

Was kept in prison even after his murder conviction was quashed

August 21, 2019

Paul Browning was released from Ely State Prison on Wednesday after spending 33 years on death row. Browning, 63, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the 1985 stabbing of Las Vegas jeweler Hugo Elsen. Thirty-three years later, he was freed due to a 2017 opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found “a mixture of disturbing prosecutorial misconduct and woefully inadequate assistance of counsel” led to “extreme malfunctions” at his murder trial.

District Judge Douglas Herndon dismissed the murder conviction, but Browning, who has always maintained his innocence, stayed behind bars because prosecutors asked to postpone the ruling to appeal the decision with the Nevada Supreme Court. Browning was able to walk free on Wednesday after Herndon lifted the hold. “I just want to find a little bit of peace after coming through all this madness,” he told the press.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that his mother, brother, and sister-in-law all made the journey to see Browning walk out of the prison gates. Browning was 30 when he went on trial, and after just an hour of deliberation, a jury convicted him of murder, and he was sentenced to death. In 2017, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that there were “extreme malfunctions” during his trial and determined there was a “mixture of disturbing prosecutorial misconduct and woefully inadequate assistance of counsel.”

“It wasn’t so much about me getting out,” Browning said. “It’s about me sitting there in court, starting with the preliminary hearing, and you see the witnesses testifying against you — all of the misconduct that occurred during trial. It’s just unjust. And it kind of hits you, right here in your gut. And that’s what has driven me.”

“I’m just happy to be here,” the now-former inmate said after his release.