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January 15, 2003
Federal Prison Camp
Oakdale, Louisiana


After writing about new year’s resolutions in my January 1st column, several readers e-mailed to ask if I had also resolved never again talk to the FBI. It would be an easy resolution to make and keep.

After all, the facts clearly show that the FBI set me up and the agent gave false testimony at my trial, directly contradicted by his own handwritten notes. But, as you well know, I was denied the notes that would have set me free.

If I would follow the advice of Louisiana’s leading newspapers, I definitely should never, ever talk to the FBI, under any circumstances. Here is the advice they have given me.

Brown was the victim of an FBI trick, which may not meet
the legal definition of entrapment, but will strike any fair-
minded layman as dirty pool. The feds did notch up one
success and they should be ashamed of it.

The Times Picayune, 10/12/00


Years from now, they’re going to call it the Jim Brown rule:
if you’re a public official in Louisiana, do not talk to the FBI.
Not under any circumstances. Not even if you’re innocent and
have nothing to hide. Especially if you’re innocent and have
nothing to hide. There’s little justice to be found in this

Gambit Weekly, New Orleans, 10/17/00


The government, fond of saying they “send a message” to the
public with convictions succeeded only in sending the message
that no one should talk to any FBI agent…but, again, the message
out of all of this is don’t ever talk to an FBI agent.

Monroe News-Star, 11/11/01


Whether he wins or loses his appeal, Jim Brown got a raw deal in
his federal trial last year. Evidently Brown, not having committed
any criminal offenses, did not suspect a trap. Poor sap. He should
have learned at his mother’s knee that, innocent or guilty, you never
ever take chances with the FBI. Brown had no obvious reason to lie
since, as the jury verdict later established, he had nothing to hide.

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 11/09/01


It’s alarming because Brown was convicted because the jury took the
word of the FBI agent over his. So? Well, FBI agents, for the most
part, take handwritten notes of interviews, and in the Brown case, the
notes were transcribed three days later. Neither Brown nor his attorney
was allowed to see the handwritten notes. That is frightening. The
lesson here, perhaps is that Brown should never have talked to the FBI

Alexandria Town Talk, 10/15/00


The case has been an embarrassment for the government from day
one. If the law does not give Brown the right to Burton’s notes,
the law is a bigger ass than we thought.

The Times-Picayune, 1/19/01


Pretty strong stuff. An overwhelming consensus that I was set up, and that I should never talk to the FBI. But wait! We are all good citizens and want to do the right thing. If we can be of assistance in solving a crime, should not we volunteer and offer to help? Isn’t it our duty to share whatever information we have that might prove beneficial?

I have thought long and hard about what I would do if such a choice ever faced me again. After much soul searching (one has time to look into the depths of one’s soul while passing hour upon hour of boredom in prison), I have made a decision.

If asked to be interviewed in the future, I will talk to the FBI.

BUT……..(do you see a smirk crossing my face?)…..there would be some ground rules. I will insist on the following conditions.

1) The entire interview must be recorded, both with audio and video. I will be
allowed to have my own recording group there (to be sure there is no high tech tampering) to do the recording.

2) If notes are to be taken, both sides will review each other’s notes for accuracy
and will initial each set of notes.

Oh, and did I mention witnesses? There will certainly be witnesses. I would want my own attorney along with a court stenographer. But in addition, I would insist on other witnesses. We all know how the FBI can pile it on.
Typical witnesses I would ask to be present would include the Catholic Bishop of Baton Rouge (The Most Reverend Robert W. Muench), Rabbi Barry L. Weinstein of Congregation B’nai Israel of Baton Rouge, and the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, (The Right Reverend Charles E. Jenkins).

I think with these protections, I would consider being interviewed. If the motives of the FBI agent are honorable and for the sole purpose of finding the truth, there should be no objection.

What do you think the chances are of their agreeing to my terms? Don’t hold your breath. But to answer the several e-mails, I will add this new resolution of being ready to cooperate. That is, under the right terms that generate the truth. Not the kangaroo injustice I received in my last interview.

* * * * * * * * * *

I have passed the half-way point of my sentence with now less than three months to go. When I get depressed about the hours of drudgery, I only have to look around me at fellow inmates who, in some cases, have six years or more left to serve out their term. So I can make the best of three months. I hope to pick up my exercise routine. I’m adding the stationary bike to my jogging, stretching and lifting program. With the colder January weather, I can move the smaller bike indoors.

So far, I’ve been fortunate in warding off winter colds. There is a limited choice of vitamins available for sale through the commissary. A multi-vitamin (much weaker than I take at home), Vitamin C (500 mgs. I take one capsule three times a day), and Vitamin E (100 IU. Weak dose so I take four capsules each day). So far, this combination is getting me by although I’ll be anxious to return to my extensive vitamin routine when I return home. I’ll list the entire group of vitamins I used to take and why in a few weeks.

With the arrival of cold weather, I have noticed more joint pain in my fingers, shoulders, elbows and knees. While at home, I was regularly taking calcium, magnesium and glucosamine. These minerals made a big difference in relieving joint pain, particularly during heavy exercising. I am making do with ibuprofen, but will be glad to get back to the minerals that work for me when I am home in April.

* * * * * * * * * *


A Lesson Before Dying is an Oprah Book Club selection about rural segregated Louisiana in the 1940’s, written by New Roads, Louisiana native Ernest Gaines.

I read the book for the first time last week. But I had listened to the author lecture about his work in the mid-1980’s. I had driven over the Lafayette from Baton Rouge one fall Saturday morning to sit in on some lectures that were part of the University of Southwestern Louisiana’s annual writers’ conference. My main reason for attending was to hear Gus Weill, a real Louisiana literary treasure, talk about his work in progress. One of Gus’ plays, Geese, had made it to Broadway, and he was working on a new book with south Louisiana artist George Rodrigue.

Gaines was living in San Francisco at the time, through he now is writer-in-residence at USL, now called ULL (University of Louisiana at Lafayette). He wore a beret and a big smile and talked about his numerous works of fiction including A Gathering of Old Men and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

Back to the present. His best known book, A Lesson Before Dying, is required reading in many high school English classes. I have just gotten around to reading it, and I’m sorry I waited so long.

The story takes place in the small Louisiana community of Bayonne, the fictional name in all Gaines’ work for his hometown in New Roads, some 20 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. A retarded African-American youth is about to go to the electric chair for murder.

I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to the
trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all time
what it would be…

So the narrator begins as Gaines explores race, injustice and resistance in this powerful novel that won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

The narrator had left his hometown for the university and has reluctantly returned to teach at a small plantation school. He is persuaded to visit the condemned young man in jail, and convince him that there is still dignity to acquire even just before his death.

Not a lot of action, and more emotional tension rather than physical. Not a long book (some 200 pages), well written with good dialogue. I’m glad I read Gaines’ bittersweet story of my home state. It is a particularly good book to share and read along with young adults in your family. I recommend it.

* * * * * * * * * *

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy.

Dr. Martin Luther King

Peace and justice to you and your family with hopes for a prosperous new year.

Jim Brown

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