Former high school principal seeks for conviction to be overturned

Posted at 12:29 PM, Aug 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 18:17:56-04

A former Clifton High School principal found guilty of a 1985 murder is seeking for his conviction to be overturned. 

Joe Bryan is currently serving a 99-year-sentence for killing his wife, Mickey, 33 years ago.

During a hearing that started on Aug. 20, the defense brought two experts who said an expert, who testified on key forensic evidence during the two trials for Bryan 30 years ago, was not qualified to take the stand.

On Aug. 21, with the testimonies of police and former Clifton residents, the defense tried to prove that a former Clifton police officer, who is now deceased, committed the crime. He was suspected of murdering a young girl in June of 1985.

Investigators who also took the stand said there were no signs of forced entry at the Clifton home where the murder occurred on Oct. 15, 1985.

They added that a flashlight with blood spatter was found in the trunk of Bryan's car. The object also had blue and green specks that matched the shell casings used to kill Mickey, according to investigators.

Police said Bryan became a suspect when he told police he found a substantial amount of money that he previously reported missing. However, police said during previous days officers had already searched the box he referenced and didn't find anything.

On Aug. 22, the defense called on additional expert witnesses. One was a Baylor Law School professor who said there was not enough evidence to convict Bryan.

After reading through previous court documents, he added that there was no evidence of marital issues, infidelity or financial issues between Bryan and his wife. 

A group of Bryan’s supporters wearing “Justice for Joe” shirts were present in the 220th District Courtroom on Aug. 21. They appeared again on Aug. 22 and filled up the front row. 

While Bryan's family was not comfortable with being interviewed, Carroll Pickett, a chaplain he met during his time in prison said he believes Bryan is innocent. 

"I promised him I'd stick behind him forever and I'm going to," Pickett said. "I've been in this courtroom many times. There's no motive. There's absolutely no motive of this one man."

After a four-week recess, there was another hearing on Sept. 17. Two more experts took the stand before the judge heard closing remarks from the state and the defense.

Both sides went over details that were covered during the three-day hearing that happened in August. They continued the argument over evidence and if the lack of it was enough to convict Bryan.

No date has been set for an additional hearing at this time, but the judge would like to have something on paper by November. 

He will issue a recommendation about the case at a later time, which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will take into consideration when making a final decision.

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