POINT OF THE MOUNTAIN -- Debra Brown left Utah State Prison in a motorcade of family and lawyers Monday afternoon, freed after more than 15 years inside.
She spoke only briefly to a throng of media gathered outside the Timpanogos women's facility. Then she was whisked away to a news conference scheduled downtown.
The steady rain and cold wind dissipated momentarily and the sun broke through the clouds as Brown was driven from the prison grounds.
"I keep trying to find the words to say exactly how I feel, and I can't," said Katy Monroe, director of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center at the University of Utah, which took up Brown's case in 2001, with Monroe on board since 2005.
Brown's is the first case to go to trial under Utah's 2008 Factual Innocence statute.
Ogden 2nd District Judge Mike DiReda ruled Brown innocent of the 1993 murder of her friend and employer Lael Brown, no relation, based on new evidence in the case.
The judge gave the Utah Attorney General's Office until 2:30 p.m. Monday to decide if it would appeal.
The office announced at 9:44 a.m. Monday via shotgun email to the state's media that the office would be appealing, but would not oppose Brown's release. The office's formal notice of intent to appeal was filed with DiReda in the early afternoon.
At 6 p.m. Monday, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced on Twitter there would be no appeal.
Paul Murphy, Shurtleff's spokesman, confirmed the announcement and said he had received four calls from media within minutes of Shurtleff's tweet.
At the news conference in the office of the RMIC's lead counsel, Alan Sullivan, who was working pro bono, the 53-year-old Brown opened up.
Asked if she still believed in the justice system, Brown said, "It works. It just took a little longer."
Brown was arrested for the murder in September 1994, 10 months after she dialed 911 when she discovered Lael Brown shot three times in the head in his home.
After she was found guilty at trial, she was sentenced to life in prison in December 1995. She had a 2018 parole hearing pending.
"The judge got it right," said Sullivan, a partner at the firm of Snell & Wilmer and an RMIC board member. "His (DiReda's) was a painstaking decision ... and we have every confidence it will be upheld on appeal."
"Ditto," Brown added.
"We all stand in amazement at who our mother was and who she is now," said Brown's son, Ryan Buttars, 35, of Rigby, Idaho. He was among more than a dozen family members who flanked Brown and Sullivan at a table for the news conference.
"She's no longer the state's," Buttars concluded.
"And we're keeping her," daughter Alana Williams, 29, of Logan, quickly added.
On Monday afternoon, DiReda also signed a stipulation the lawyers agreed to under the Factual Innocence statute regarding the financial compensation owed Brown.
The figure is based on the average nonfarm salary of a Utah worker during the years of incarceration, capped at 15 years.
The stipulation put the figure owed Brown at $570,780.
A first payment was set at 20 percent of that figure, $114,156.
But payment was stayed pending outcome of the appeal, which now won't be filed in light of Shurtleff's announcement.