Judge Justin Angel Featured On One of Country's Most Popular Podcasts

March 10, 2020

Twelfth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Justin Angel was recently featured on one of the nation’s most popular podcasts to talk about his involvement in the case of Adam Braseel, a Grundy County man released from prison in 2019 after serving 12 years for a murder he swears he did not commit.

The episode of Criminal that Judge Angel appears on is titled “Red Hair, Gold Car,” a reference to the identifying characteristics that led police to arrest Braseel in 2006 for the murder of Tracy City resident Malcolm Burrows. Braseel was convicted the following year despite his protests of innocence, based largely on an eyewitness account from two of Burrows’ family members.

Judge Angel first became involved in the case in 2015, when he overturned Braseel’s conviction and ordered a new trial.  The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed this decision, sending Braseel back to prison after 10 months of freedom.

There was never any physical evidence linking Braseel to the crime. He had been singled out for arrest due to the fact that he had red hair and drove a gold car, descriptions of the suspected perpetrator provided by the family members. In late 2018, it was revealed to Braseel’s defense team that police at the scene of the crime had recovered fingerprints on Burrows’ car that matched another red-haired man with a similarly-colored car, Kermit Eugene Bryson. Unlike Braseel, who lacked a criminal record, Bryson was a convicted felon who killed himself two years after Burrows’ murder shortly after gunning down a Grundy County deputy.  The revelation of this fingerprint drew quick action from Braseel’s legal team, which eventually led to the hearing that freed Braseel from prison for the second time.

Braseel was released after making an Alford Plea, which allowed him to maintain his innocence while admitting that there was possibly enough evidence to convict him of one charge of aggravated assault. Prosecutors dropped the more serious charge Braseel faced, first-degree murder.

In the episode, Judge Angel traces his personal history with the case and reflects on Braseel’s ordeal.

“Mr. Braseel spent from age 24 to 36 incarcerated,” Judge Angel said. “I think about all the things I was able to experience and enjoy during that time frame in my life as far as getting married and having a child, getting through law school, getting elected as judge, just all the things I was able to experience during that time frame that he essentially was robbed of. There are mistakes that are made and I want to do everything I can to keep these types of mistakes from ever happening again anywhere, especially in my district and in the State of Tennessee.”

Criminal is a true crime podcast that was launched in 2014. It has been featured on numerous “best of” lists in a variety of publications including Time, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, and Wired, and regularly appears in the charts of the nation’s most downloaded podcasts.