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Gotta kick at the darkness ’till it bleeds daylight


Since we could use some good news, worth noting that sometimes the arc can still bend a little in the right direction:

On Tuesday, Joe Bryan was released from prison after 33 years behind bars. “Thank you, Father, for taking care of me,” he said, extending his hand toward the sky, his voice choking with emotion. “Hallelujah, praise Jesus!”

Bryan’s attorneys and a large group of family members had waited outside the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville for hours in cold, gloomy weather, craning for a view of the 79-year-old. Shortly before 11 a.m., as the sun burst through the clouds, parolees began to emerge from the prison, filing past the monolithic, red-brick structure that is home to the state’s execution chamber. Bryan looked uncertainly ahead of him until he spotted familiar faces, then broke into a wide grin. A small bag, which a younger parolee carried for him, held all of his possessions.

Bryan, the subject of a ProPublica-New York Times Magazine investigation that questioned the integrity of the expert forensic testimony used to convict him, has always maintained that he had no part in the 1985 shooting death of his wife, Mickey. Bryan was twice convicted of her murder, which took place in their Clifton, Texas, home.

Bryan, then a high school principal, had been attending an education conference in Austin, 120 miles away, in the days surrounding the murder. By his account, he was asleep in his hotel at the time of the crime. His conviction rested largely on bloodstain-pattern analysis, a technique still in use throughout the criminal justice system, despite serious concerns about its reliability.

A man serving 33 years in prison for a prime he almost certainly didn’t commit is not justice, but his release is still far better than the alternative. And obviously Colloff and his similarly indefatigable lawyers are genuine heroes.

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