James Brown died in 2006. Now an Atlanta prosecutor is looking into it

An Atlanta prosecutor will examine singer James Brown’s death after meeting Wednesday with a woman who said she has evidence that Brown was murdered.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. told CNN his investigators would conduct interviews and weigh potential evidence before deciding whether to launch a full-scale death investigation.

Brown, one of the nation’s most prominent entertainers, died at 73 at a hospital in Atlanta on December 25, 2006. His death certificate blamed a heart attack and fluid in the lungs. But Marvin Crawford, the doctor who signed that certificate, said in a 2017 interview with CNN that he’d always wondered what brought on those events—and whether Brown’s sudden death had been caused by a toxic substance.

“He changed too fast,” Crawford said. “He was a patient I would never have predicted would have coded. … But he died that night, and I did raise that question: What went wrong in that room?”

One year ago, CNN published an investigative series that raised questions about Brown’s death. It cited 13 people who wanted either an autopsy or a criminal investigation. Those people included Brown’s manager, his son Daryl, his last wife, a man who claimed to have taken a vial of Brown’s blood from the hospital and Jacque Hollander, the circus singer who first called CNN in 2017 to allege that Brown had been murdered.

It was Hollander who met with the district attorney on Wednesday. She’d tried to arrange the meeting in 2019, but she says no one called her back. In January, after CNN asked the prosecutor’s spokesman about her calls, Howard said he was willing to meet with her. And he agreed to let a CNN reporter and a camera crew into the conference room during the interview.

Howard brought two other prosecutors into the meeting, but he conducted the interview himself. He took notes on a white legal pad as Hollander told her story. She gave a list of other possible witnesses, handed over a stack of printed text messages, and explained how she came into possession of a green plastic storage bin that she said was filled with evidence.

“So,” Howard asked her, as the bin sat on a cart at the end of the conference table, “are you bringing the bin to leave here?”

“Well,” she said, “I sure don’t want it.”

Howard accepted the bin and its contents. He said his investigators would check out Hollander’s story in the coming months and then decide whether to open a full investigation. After Howard finished the interview, Hollander had a private meeting with an assistant district attorney who took inventory of the items Hollander brought in. She walked out of the Fulton County courthouse holding a property receipt.

About three years ago, she called CNN with the astonishing claim that both James Brown and his third wife, Adrienne, had been murdered.

Adrienne Brown died January 6, 1996, in California while recovering from plastic surgery. Police in Beverly Hills declined to open an investigation into her death.

In text messages downloaded from Hollander’s iPhone, interviews with more than 140 people and tens of thousands of pages of police and court documents, CNN found many reasons to question whether James or Adrienne Brown died of natural causes. The resulting three-part series generated news headlines around the world, from Germany to Brazil, in publications from Rolling Stone to The Guardian, and some people wondered what the authorities would do next.

A curious silence followed. No one in power seemed willing to take the next step.

Police in Atlanta declined to open an investigation into James Brown’s death. A full year passed. And then the district attorney granted Hollander an audience.

“He was very kind,” she said outside the courthouse Wednesday afternoon. “I think he will get to the bottom of this.”