February will mark the 16th anniversary of a tragedy that has long sat heavy on the hearts of Pittsburgh. The fatal Bricelyn Street fire claimed the lives of three Pittsburgh firefighters. Greg Brown was convicted of arson and is serving a life sentence without parole. The Innocence Institute at Point Park University has been investigating the fire for over 7 years, and has made some startling discoveries. According to renowned fire dynamics expert Gerald Hurst, the fire was likely not arson at all, but the result of an ongoing natural gas leak. Two years after the trial, two witnesses who testified against Greg received thousands of dollars from the ATF for their cooperation: one, who was 17 at the time, received $5,000, and another (yet to be identified) received $10,000. The government says now that the payments were made to the witnesses with no agreement and that they were “surprised” to receive the money. However, one of the witnesses confirms that when he testified the ATF promised that he’d receive $15,000. And further, a former girlfriend of that witness told student journalists that the trial testimony was false. None of that information had been given to Greg’s defense team at the time of the trial.
Further, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project has confirmed that the only witness to link Greg Brown to the fire says that he testified believing that he would receive $15,000 after the trial–a fact that was never disclosed at the trial. Working with local counsel Dave Fawcett of Reed Smith, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project has filed a petition in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas demanding a new trial for Greg, and information that should have been turned over but never was. While investigation of the issues are continuing, students working with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project are working on completing the petition for a new trial, currently due in late February.