The defense in the 2005 killing of Rashawn Brazell has filed an alibi notice that the accused killer was attending a driving school in St. Louis during the week that the 19-year-old gay man was murdered and his body parts were found in a Brooklyn subway station.
“The limited records they had verified he was enrolled in the program and was credited with a significant number of hours that week,” said Jonathan Strauss, one of two attorneys who represents Kwauhuru Govan, following a brief June 19 hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
The 41-year-old faces one count of second-degree murder in the case.
In 2016, the cold case units in the NYPD and the Brooklyn district attorney’s office matched Govan’s DNA to DNA that was found under the fingernails of Sharabia Thomas, a 17-year-old whose dismembered body was discovered in two laundry bags in an alley in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. Govan was convicted on kidnapping and murder charges in the 2004 Thomas killing last year. He was sentenced to 25-to-life in that case.
At the time, police determined that Govan lived across the street from Brazell. A bag that belonged to Govan and that had Brazell’s blood on it was recovered at the subway station where Brazell’s body was found. The prosecution has other evidence that it has not publicly disclosed.
The alibi further complicates a case that was never the stronger of the two cases.
Leila Rosini, the senior assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case with Danielle Reddan, an assistant district attorney, said her office is investigating “whether or not this is a sound alibi” during the hearing.
“We received the alibi notice,” she said. “We’re looking into it… We do have that he did not complete the school.”
Any investigation into the alibi by the defense and the prosecution is hampered by the time that has passed since Govan is believed to have attended the school and that the school’s records may be lost or incomplete.
The defense earlier moved to have Govan be tried as an anonymous defendant. There was a great deal of press coverage when Govan was first arrested in both cases and there was additional coverage when he was convicted in the Thomas case. The “intense vilification,” as the defense described it, consistently portrayed Govan as a killer and his occasional erratic behavior in court did not help his image. The defense wanted to avoid any juror in the Brazell case linking Govan to the Thomas case. The judge in the trial, Joanne Quinones, refused the defense motion.
While it is common for criminal cases to be resolved with a plea deal and criminal defendants who have been convicted in one case have an incentive to make a deal if they are facing charges in a second case, Govan has maintained since his arrest in 2016 that he is an innocent man. It seems unlikely that he will take a deal.
The case will next be before Quinones on July 8.