Browns' contempt charges related to Barmore shooting thrown out - – Rockford’s News Leader

Browns' contempt charges related to Barmore shooting thrown out by higher court

Sheila Brown (left0 and her daughter Marissa Brown wait outside court. Sheila Brown (left0 and her daughter Marissa Brown wait outside court.
Rev. Melvin Brown Rev. Melvin Brown
Joe Bruscato Joe Bruscato

The Illinois Appellate Court overturns a contempt conviction against two of the main witnesses to a Rockford Police Officer shooting that left a suspect dead. A mother and daughter were charged after allegedly ignoring a grand jury subpoena regarding the Mark Barmore case. But the appellate court says that was not the case.


You might remember Sheila and Marissa Brown were two of the main witnesses in Mark Barmore's shooting death. They failed to show up to a grand jury hearing where they were held in contempt. But the court says they should have been granted an emergency petition to come at a later date.


"The state's attorney's office, the legal system down in Rockford, you need to go back and correct some wrongs. They owe my wife and daughter and our church an apology, an open apology," says Apostle Melvin Brown, Kingdom Authority Church.


Rev. Melvin Brown is the husband of Sheila Brown and Marissa Brown is their daughter. They were inside the Kingdom Authority Church's basement in August 2009 when Mark Barmore was shot and killed by Rockford Police. They were called to testify before the grand jury on December 23, 2009. They failed to show because they were on a holiday trip to Mississippi.


"But we had been told we wouldn't have to testify," says Brown.


Court documents show the Browns were told by their attorney they would not be called before the grand jury so they made holiday travel plans. Then six days before their trip they were told they would have to appear. But the attorney told them to go ahead with their plans saying he would request an emergency petition. But that was denied by the trial court and the Browns were held in contempt.


In the decision the appellate court says it was wrong in finding the defendants guilty because it "abused it's discretion in denying the defendants' emergency petition to continue their grand jury subpoena." the court called the original ruling "arbitrary and unreasonable."


"The state's attorney's office respects the appellate court however we disagree with the majority's opinion and we agree with the dissenting opinion," says Joe Bruscato, Winnebago County State's Attorney.


The dissenters say the court did not abuse its discretion and that the Browns "willfully disobeyed the circuit court's order" requiring them to appear before the grand jury.


"We'll be reviewing this matter with the appellate prosecutors office to determine whether we should appeal this matter to the Illinois Supreme Court," says Bruscato.


The state's attorney's office has 35 days from April 24, 2013, that's when the appellate court ruling was filed, to decide whether to bring this matter to the Illinois Supreme Court.  You can read the full ruling from the appellate court.

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