Former Clifton high school principal found guilty of 1985 murder released from prison

State

Joe Bryan. (Courtesy: Innocence Project of Texas)

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Innocence Project of Texas client Joe Bryan, who was incarcerated for more than 32 years for a crime he did not commit, was released on parole Tuesday from prison in Huntsville, Texas.

As a second-year Baylor Law student in November 2013, IPTX Staff Attorney Jessi Freud began reviewing Joe’s case under the direction and supervision of IPTX Board Member and Waco attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr. Jessi said she immediately wanted to work on Joe’s behalf after she reviewed his case file, and Reaves allowed her to take on the case.

Twice wrongfully convicted for the 1985 Clifton, Texas, murder of his beloved wife Mickey, Joe’s case received national attention after ProPublica senior reporter Pamela Colloff wrote a two-part investigation jointly published in the spring of 2018 by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine. Colloff won a prestigious award for exceptional journalism for the piece and it later served as inspiration for John Grisham’s latest best-selling novel, “The Guardian”.

Colloff said she initially was just looking to do a story on any new, relevant bloodstain pattern case, but decided on Bryan’s case because it was under review at the time by the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The Commission ultimately issued a report finding that the bloodstain pattern expert’s trial testimony – used at both of Joe’s trials -was flawed and unscientific. That same expert later admitted by affidavit at the 2018 evidentiary hearing led by Freud and Reaves, that many of his conclusions were wrong.

Jessi spent dozens of weekends, and many work days, making the more than 20 trips, from Austin to Huntsville, and this past year to Beaumont, meeting with Joe and working at least a thousand hours on his case.

Reaves said he is really happy Joe’s getting out, but that, “I hoped he’d be walking out exonerated, not that he’d be on parole after his appeals got denied.”

Joe, who turns 80 this September, will be living with his older brother Jim and his sister-in-law Joretta in north Houston.

Jessi and IPTX Deputy Director Allison Clayton, with assistance of Allison’s Innocence Clinic law students, will be petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States on Joe’s behalf this summer.

Choking back a few tears, before he drove away from the building he’d been housed in for so long, Joe said, “None of this would be possible without the Innocence Project of Texas. Jessi and Walter did an excellent job in representing me.”

Source: Innocence Project of Texas

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