Watch the video interview with Sorrells | Go there.
COMPILED FROM MEDIA REPORTS
For more information about Brelyn Sorrell’s acquittal, see this weekend’s stories in the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE News:
Last minute video evidence frees man accused of murder | KVUE News
Exonerating video surfaces midway through Hays County murder trial | Austin American-Statesman
“I gained a lot of strength. I’ve gained a lot more wisdom. I think about things more than once. I became a better me,” Sorrells told the Austin American-Statesman in an interview on Friday, two days after he was released from the Hays County jail.
Sorrells does not dispute that he fatally stabbed 20-year-old Arthur Martinez shortly after midnight on Sunday, February 3, 2013, during a chaotic party packed with as many as 300 people at an Allen Street duplex. Sorrells said he acted in self-defense when cornered by a group of men accompanying an Austin resident named Nick Goss, with whom Sorrells had an ongoing feud, the Statesman reported. The men who confronted Sorrells are members of the Black Aces, the Statesman reported, describing the group as a “low-level street gang in Austin.”
“I just knew that if someone came at me with a bottle, then I had to do what I had to do,” Sorrells told KVUE News, the Austin ABC affiliate. “If you have one chance to think about it, you’re not going to let no one take your life from you. …It’s your God-given right to fight for your life.”
With dozens of witnesses to the fight and its aftermath — including testimony that seemed to contradict Sorrell’s version of events — proving self defense was not necessarily going to be an easy task when the trial started May 12.
Then on the evening of May 15, four days into his trial, Sorrells was meeting with his attorney at the jail when the phone rang, KVUE News reported. A prosecutor had been clicking through dozens of videos from cell phones seized from party-goers and recognized a particular song mentioned by a witnesses during testimony earlier in the trial. The prosecutor kept watching and saw that the video captured the fight during which Martinez was killed. Someone from the district attorney’s office called Sorrells’ attorney the same day, reaching him at the jail while he was consulting with his client, KVUE News reported.
Recorded by a DJ hoping to use footage from the party in a music video, the video appears to show the fight in its entirety, according to the Statesman:
The footage shows dozens of college-age people packed into the house, red plastic cups in hand, as the DJ blares a thumping rap song, dancing and singing along.
Suddenly, in the background, a fight breaks out. Goss swings a glass liquor bottle at Sorrells, who has his back to a wall, surrounded. Sorrells ducks and stabs Goss as he moves past him.
As the video continues, Sorrells is caught in a writhing mass of bodies. Eventually, he falls to the floor, where he is beaten by several people.
Arthur Martinez, a friend of Goss’, stumbles back, a red stain spreading on his shirt, brass knuckles on his right hand. The video ends there.
When court reconvened on Friday, May 16, defense attorney Ariel Payan, joined by the district attorney’s office, asked 207th State District Bruce Boyer for a continuance so the evidence could be examined, court records state.
“It proved everything my client was saying. It was critical to the outcome of the case,” Payan told the Statesman.
On May 21, after deliberating for more than nine hours, the jury found Sorrells not guilty of murder in Martinez’s death and not guilty of two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, charges stemming from non-life stab wounds two other people took that night.
It is still not entirely clear how the crucial video went unnoticed by both defense attorneys and prosecutors for more than a year, although reporting by the Statesman and KVUE News seems to dispel some of the mystery.
A signed receipt indicates the video was among evidence turned over to the defense in May 2013, San Marcos police Cmdr. Penny Dunn told KVUE News. But because the phone used to record the video was apparently not set to local time, the time stamp on the digital file gave no indication it was created anytime near the time of the stabbing.
Consequently, no one watched it until the trial was underway — and only then almost by accident.
COVER PHOTO: Screen shot from KVUE News video interview.