Kennedy Brewer

Noxubee County, Mississippi
Date of Crime:  May 3, 1992

Kennedy Brewer was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of three-year-old Christine Jackson, the daughter of his live-in girlfriend.  Christine had been taken from her home in the early morning hours and found dumped in a creek.  An intruder could have entered the home through a broken window.  Brewer was the boyfriend of Gloria Jackson, the victim's mother.  Christine had been sleeping on a makeshift pallet of sofa cushions at the foot of the couple's bed.  In the morning, the couple discovered that Christine was gone.  Two other children were present in the home.

At trial, Dr. Steven Hayne, the medical examiner, testified that he had found several marks on Christine's body that he believed were bite marks.  Hayne called in Dr. Michael West, a forensic odontologist, to analyze the marks.  West concluded that 19 marks found on Christine's body were “indeed and without a doubt” inflicted by Brewer.  He asserted that all 19 marks were made only by Brewer's top two teeth.  At the time of Brewer's trial, West had the distinction of having become the first member ever suspended from the American Board of Forensic Odontology.  However, the court still allowed his testimony.

In response, the defense presented Dr. Richard Souviron, a founding member of the American Board of Forensic Odontology.  Souviron testified that the marks were not human bite marks at all but were insect bites.  He argued that it would be all but impossible to leave repeated bite mark impressions with only the top two teeth.

In 2002, Brewer's conviction was overturned after DNA tests showed that the semen from the Christine's rape kit could not have come from him.  Despite the test results, the prosecution held Brewer for years, although in 2007 he was allowed out on bail.  The prosecution planned to retry him on the grounds that he assisted the unknown rapist in Christine's murder.  It had refused to compare the DNA test results against the state's DNA database, saying there is no database, but the assistant director of the state crime laboratory said, “We've been up and running on our DNA database for years.”

In 2007, while investigating Brewer's case, the Innocence Project had DNA tests performed on blood and hair samples taken from Justin Albert Johnson, a local man who was an initial suspect in the murder.  The results matched DNA taken from Christine.  When confronted with the evidence, Johnson confessed to Christine's murder and also to the murder of another 3-year-old, Courtney Smith, who was murdered two years earlier.  Levon Brooks was convicted of that crime because of bite mark testimony from the same Dr. West.  In his confession, Johnson adamantly denied that he bit either girl.  Charges against Brewer were subsequently dropped.  Brooks was also subsequently exonerated.  [9/08]


References:  New York TimesInnocence Project, Hayne Inquiry

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Mississippi Cases, Intruder Murders, Bite Mark Cases