Ryan Buttars, the son of Debra Brown, has launched a petition campaign to persuade the Utah Attorney General's office to drop its intended appeal of her exoneration. On May 2nd, 2011, 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda ruled that Brown was factually innocent of the 1993 murder of Lael Brown, and on May 9th, she was released from Utah State Prison after 17 years.
The petition is addressed to Governor Gary Herbert and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. Buttars writes, “The decision to yank the rug out from under Debra and her family with an appeal, only two weeks after promising not to appeal, is cruel. Deb deserves to start her new life! Please sign this petition and ask the state of Utah to not send Deb back to prison!” The link to the petition is provided below:
When Judge DiReda issued his ruling, the Attorney General's office initially announced their intention to appeal the decision. They were apprehensive about the possible precedent set, since the ruling was the first-ever case in Utah under a 2008 state statute that allows convictions to be challenged based on new facts rather than new DNA evidence. After a brief outcry of public protest, Mark Shurtleff then personally intervened and said there would be no appeal. He was hospitalized at the time recovering from a bad reaction to chemotherapy, which may have clouded his judgment.
But then on May 26th, Mark Shurtleff changed his mind AGAIN, announcing his intent to appeal to the Utah Supreme Court after pressure was applied by 26 of the state's 29 county attorneys. They were concerned about the possible precedent set by Brown's exoneration, since the ruling was the first-ever case in Utah under a 2008 state statute that allows convictions to be challenged based on new facts rather than new DNA evidence. They fear it will open the floodgates to more appeals. Shurtleff specifically said he does not seek to put Debra Brown back in prison, but cannot promise it won't happen. Meanwhile, Debra Brown's job-seeking efforts are hamstrung and her efforts to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delayed.
What upset people more than anything else is the flip-flopping. They got Brown's hopes up, then deflated them. This is not fair. Signing the petition is a way of protesting Shurtleff's flip-flopping. One does not need to be a resident of Utah to sign the petition.