Joe Bryan wasn’t killed in 1985, his wife Mickey was, found brutally murdered in their home on a night he was away at an educator’s conference.
And yet his life, any semblance of the life he’d known, was over as well, as he soon became a suspect, eventually convicted and sent away for life. All the pillars of his life–gone like the wind. His spouse, his career, his community standing, and of course his freedom, just memories for him. He’s old now, at least health-wise, he’ll likely die surrounded by the iron and concrete that prisoners call home.
Which would be poignant enough, even if he’d shot his wife. Yet reasonable doubt–the element which supposedly wins you an acquittal–wasn’t only present in this case. Doubt washed over it like flood waters from a hurricane.
Motive? No. Means and opportunity? Quite a stretch. How was he convicted? In the courtroom, “experts” spun their theories, and much rested on a flashlight found in the trunk of his car which supposedly showed signs of “blood spatter.” Although now no one is even sure if it was even blood, much less where it came from.
The New York Times recently published a long review of the case. It’s more than interesting for the serious mystery analyst. Below, a very brief excerpt from a long article on the case:
And the presumption of innocence, overturned only by consistent and compelling evidence, often dies as well as prosecutors feel pressure to close a case.
Was the principle of reasonable doubt shot to death in this case?