The Right to a Fair Trial: Charlie Brooks Jr.

"Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him." Article 10, Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Star Telegram Article, “Execution Stay Refused for Killer” <br />

Fort Worth Star Telegram Article, "Execution Stay Refused for Killer"

This article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is relevant to the life of Charlie Brooks Jr. because many people argued that the legal process was unfair to him, including his wife and children. Despite the fact that Charlie Brooks Jr. was accused alongside another man, they were not treated the same and did not receive the same punishment. Throughout Derrek Brooks’ oral history, it is evident that he believes that his father was wrongly treated and that he was innocent: “We know, we know in our hearts, my family knows, we know that he didn’t do it” ( However, whether or not his trial was fair, only Charlie Brooks Jr. received the death penalty, while the other man accused got a new trial and eventually went free.

This article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights requires that all people accused of a crime should get a fair trial, in order to protect innocent people from being punished for a crime that they did not commit. However, many people who knew Charlie Brooks Jr. either thought that he was innocent or that he did not receive a fair trial. In a newspaper article written by Bob Lloyd in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Brooks’ attorney, Danny D. Burns, claims that the trial was unfair for a number of reasons. According to Burns, Brooks’ leading attorney had a heart attack in the middle of the proceedings, and his replacement was totally unfamiliar with the case. Burns also argues that the trial was unfair because the court “rejected a potential juror who said that she might not be able to sentence a person to die.” However, none of Burns’ complaints and accusations of an unfair trial were taken seriously enough to reconsider Charlie Brooks Jr.’s punishment. Another important issue that Charlie Brooks’ son, Derrek Brooks, brings up in his oral history, is that the legal process was also unfair because the witnesses were not interviewed to prove whether or not Brooks was even there when the victim was shot. Derrek Brooks claims that people have told him that his father was not inside the room when the victim was shot, yet no witnesses publicly verified this during the trial: “the prosecutor, or I guess the defense attorney, never interviewed anybody -- any of the witnesses -- to prove, you know, that he was not there, to prove the fatal shot. So, they get arrested, and my dad and Woody both get charged with capital murder… both are found guilty of murder and sentenced to death” ( Derrek Brooks brings up the point that not all evidence was brought forth in the trial, and that important witnesses were disregarded, thus clearly making the trial impartial.


 Letter From Charlie Brooks Jr. to Keith Brooks, Dated June 18, 1981<br />

Letter From Charlie Brooks Jr. to Keith Brooks, Dated June 18, 1981

Although Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights claims that all people should get a “fair and public hearing,” clearly this is not always the case. It is evident through his letters that Charlie Brooks Jr. had a family who cared about him, and through other primary sources it is easy to see that many people either believed him to be innocent or thought he had an unfair trial. Throughout his letters, Brooks affectionately refers to his son as “Keechie” and repeatedly tells him how much he loves him. Yet still, neither his family nor the UDHR could not protect him from un unfair trial and punishment. It is hard to say who gets to judge what is and is not a fair trial, and in a contemporary U.S. setting, this article may not be helpful at all in some circumstances. Even in juxtaposition with another UDHR article, which claims that “everyone has the right to life,” this still did not stop Charlie Brooks Jr. from being the first person to be subjected to execution by lethal injection. As some people have more privilege than others in the world, it is likely that in a contemporary environment, minorities are less likely to be protected by the UDHR than more privileged people.


By Kyra O'Dowd