Joe Bryan of Clifton, Texas is free today after he was granted parole following years behind bars. He served more than three decades in prison after he was convicted in the 1985 murder of his wife, Mickey Bryan. He is now 81 years old.
Bryan was convicted twice in the death of his wife, who was killed in their Clifton, Texas home. A ProPublica-New York Times Magazine investigation dug into the details of the case. His conviction was largely based on bloodstain-pattern analysis.
ABC 20/20 spoke to Bryan for its new episode, which airs tonight, Friday, October 15, 2021, at 9 p.m. Eastern time. “The Principal’s Wife” is the second episode of Season 44. The episode will also be released on Hulu for streaming the next day. Mickey Bryan was a 44-year-old fourth grade teacher when she was murdered. The 20/20 episode airs on the anniversary of her death.
Here’s what you need to know:
Bryan Was Released From the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville on March 31, 2020, & Hopes to Be Exonerated
Bryan was released from the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville at age 79 on March 31, 2020, according to ProPublica, which was there to observe his first moments of freedom after nearly 33 years behind bars.
“Thank you, Father, for taking care of me,” he said, reaching toward the sky, ProPublica reported. “Hallelujah, praise Jesus!”
Bryan suffers from congestive heart failure, the article said. He had been denied parole seven times beginning in 2007 after serving 20 years of his prison sentence, ProPublica reported.
“The reason for the board’s change of heart is unknown; its deliberations are confidential and exempt from state open-record laws. But its actions followed a concerted effort by his parole attorneys, Allen and Shea Place, and his family to win his release,” the article said.
His family and attorneys are now working toward exoneration, they told the publication.
Bryan told ABC News he wants to know who killed Mickey Bryan.
“I’m not a killer. I didn’t kill Mickey. I loved Mickey, she was my other self,” he told ABC News. “I hope to be found actually innocent so it’s really truly over with. Then for the first time in 34 years I can have a sigh of relief, and I can go visit Mickey’s grave and tell her, ‘We know who did it.'”
Bryan Maintains He Did Not Kill His Wife, & The Innocence Project of Texas Is Working With Him
The Innocence Project of Texas maintains that Bryan was held in prison for more than three decades for a crime he did not commit. Pamela Colloff, who completed a two-part investigation on Bryan’s case, told The Innocence Project she took on the project while looking for new cases involving bloodstain pattern evidence. She decided on Bryan’s case because, at the time, it was under the review of 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,” The Innocence Project of Texas reported. “That same expert later admitted by affidavit at the 2018 evidentiary hearing led by Freud and Reaves, that many of his conclusions were wrong.”
IPTX Staff Attorney Jessi Freud began reviewing the case in 2013, the article said.
“I read his trial transcript and thought, how is this possible? He was in Austin when his wife was horrifically and senselessly killed. Joe corroborated he was in Austin,” Freud said in the article. “It made no sense to me and, in my mind, I made the commitment to doing everything I could to fix it and get Joe home.”