Friday, June 15, 2018

Joe Bryan: Texas; Dispatch (2); 'Blood will tell' Author Pamela Colloff gives readers insights into the fascinating ProPublica/New York Times series..."In my last dispatch, I told you about the challenges of reporting on a 33-year-old murder case. Today, I want to walk you through how I re-examined the police investigation that resulted in Joe Bryan’s arrest. Law enforcement didn’t make it easy."

Blood clipart blood splat #1042

"Hi again. In my last dispatch, I told you about the challenges of reporting on a 33-year-old murder case. Today, I want to walk you through how I re-examined the police investigation that resulted in Joe Bryan’s arrest. Law enforcement didn’t make it easy. First, though, I wanted to share some important news. On June 4, Joe was denied parole. It’s unclear whether the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles read ProPublica’s coverage of this case—or the New York Times editorial board’s powerful call to set Joe free—before making its determination. Often the board deliberates well before its decisions are announced. Because its deliberations are kept secret, we will never know why its members made the decision they made—a decision that is all the more startling considering the fact that Joe has a pristine disciplinary record, has served more than 30 years in prison, and is suffering from congestive heart failure. Joe’s next best hope is the evidentiary hearing that will be taking place in August. (This is the legal proceeding at which his attorneys will be allowed to present new evidence and ask that he be granted a new trial.) The hearing is set to begin on Aug. 20 in Comanche, Texas. I plan on covering the hearing, so you will hear more from me about that later this summer. But for now, let’s return to the 1985 investigation into who killed Mickey Bryan. After I went to the courthouse in Comanche last summer and obtained the case file, I spent a lot of time reading and studying the documents. A few things immediately struck me. Law enforcement officers never searched Joe’s Mercury on the day Mickey’s body was found. Had they done so, we would know whether the flashlight, the most damning piece of evidence at trial, was in the trunk of his car then. (Instead, as you may remember, Charlie Blue, Mickey’s brother, said he found it there four days after the murder.) Searching the vehicle of the victim’s husband should have been a fairly routine thing to do. Had investigators done so, prosecutors would have had a much stronger case against Joe, or none at all. I was also struck by how quickly investigators abandoned their initial theory that Mickey’s murder had stemmed from a break-in. The Bryans were widely known to be very generous people, and both educators had helped a number of their students financially over the years. They kept cash in the house. And it was no secret that Joe was out of town at a conference in the days leading up to Mickey’s murder. The Bryans’ garage doors were open that night, so anyone could see that Joe’s car was gone (and might have assumed that Mickey was with him). I always wondered if the crime had begun as a break-in, and whether Mickey, hearing an intruder, grabbed the .357 that she and Joe kept in the bedroom, before having the weapon used against her. But the evidence that pointed to a break-in doesn’t appear to have been thoroughly examined. In reviewing documents, I learned that no effort was put into trying to determine the provenance of the mysterious cigarette butt that was found on the Bryans’ kitchen floor until days before Joe’s first trial began. (Neither of the Bryans smoked.) It was only then that justice of the peace Alvin James was asked to undergo serology testing. He would later testify that he had smoked cigarettes outside the Bryan home before entering the crime scene, and Texas Ranger Joe Wilie would testify that he tracked the cigarette butt into the house. But none of this was documented at the time of the crime. Perhaps most troubling was what I read in the Whitley case file. (As you may remember from Part I, Judy Whitley was the Clifton teenager who was killed four months before Mickey. And in Part II you learned that Clifton police determined, more than a decade later, that ex-Clifton police officer Dennis Dunlap killed her.) In the Whitley file, I found an affidavit written by a Clifton police officer after Dunlap’s suicide in 1996. That officer claimed he and another officer on the police force in 1985 had always suspected Dunlap of killing Whitley. Dunlap “knew details of the crime scene that he had not witnessed nor been told,” the officer wrote. “We wanted to arrest Dunlap, but were told that we had no case. We continued to work on the case but were unable to get any hard evidence, so Dunlap was never charged with the murder.” The same officer had also documented numerous instances in which Dunlap was caught “chasing females” and “bothering women.” Why, I wondered, had Dunlap not been more aggressively investigated in the Whitley killing? And why had he not been questioned about the Bryan murder? I would love to ask investigators these questions. But not a single person who investigated the Bryan case agreed to speak with me. So we are only left with unanswered questions. In the next newsletter, I’ll tell you about how I found Joe’s case and how I became interested in bloodstain pattern analysis in the first place. It has to do with another Texas murder trial—one that forever changed the way I saw expert testimony. Thanks again for reading and tell your friends to subscribe! Pamela."

The entire dispatch can be read at the link  below:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.