Joe Bryan’s wife Mickey was murdered in 1985. He was the prime suspect, but there was little concrete evidence against him. He had a strong alibi. A so-called expert witness on blood-spatter evidence, however, pointed to a blood-speckled flashlight found in the trunk of Joe’s car and claimed that the speckles could only have been produced by a close-range shooting. Joe was convicted.
Now, that expert witness has admitted that his conclusions were wrong. “Some of the techniques and methodology were incorrect,” he swore in an affidavit recently. “Therefore, some of my testimony was not correct.”
That blood-spatter expert only had 40 hours of training when he was brought onto Joe’s case, and there was plenty of reason to doubt his conclusions.
First, in the days surrounding the murder, Joe was in Austin, Texas, for a school principals’ convention — 120 miles away from the crime scene. Joe has always said he was asleep in his hotel room when the murder occurred.
Second, no blood was discovered in the interior of Joe’s car. That was significant because the blood-speckled flashlight was found there, and also because the prosecution had argued that Joe fled the crime scene in his car. The blood-spatter expert opined, apparently without any proof, that the murderer had changed out of his clothes and shoes in the Bryan home’s master bathroom.
Third, it was never clear that the blood on the flashlight came from Mickey Bryan. Tests available at the time could only verify that the blood was type O, which matched Mickey but also a majority of the population.
The accuracy of the blood-spatter analysis has been called into question. In July, the Texas Forensic Science Commission determined that it was “not accurate or scientifically supported.”
During an August evidentiary hearing, Joe’s attorneys presented numerous experts who testified that the blood-spatter analysis was faulty. Moreover, new evidence suggested an alternative suspect — a deceased police officer suspected in another nearby murder.
A DNA test was ordered on the blood from the flashlight. It turns out, five out of six stains tested weren’t blood at all. A swab from the lens proved inconclusive. A swab from the handle actually excluded both Joe and Mickey.
Other key evidence was shown to be faulty, too, and by the end of a recent hearing, most of the state’s case had been debunked.
The case is on hold until Nov. 9, when the prosecution and the defense will submit written conclusions. Then, the judge will make a recommendation on whether Joe, now 78, should receive a new trial.
“How much longer will he have to wait?” asks one of his supporters.