Thursday, May 12, 2016
Yesterday, Malcolm Jabbar Bryant was released from prison after serving seventeen years of a life sentence for the murder of 16 year-old Toni Bullock in Baltimore City. The lead detective on the case was William Ritz, one of the lead detectives on Adnan's case. There was one* eyewitness to the murder: Tyeisha Powell. Based on the description that Powell gave of the perpetrator, the Baltimore Police created a composite sketch, which Ritz posted, along with the enticement of a Metro Crimestoppers reward, for information leading to an arrest/indictment:
Ritz began getting calls after the distribution of the composite....The police then began “accumulating names and eliminating those individuals as suspects.”...Ultimately, a photographic array was prepared and on December 1, 1998, Powell identified [Bryant]'s photograph.
So, where did things go wrong, and how were they eventually set right(ish)?
Let's start with the description of the perpetrator given by Powell. Powell told Maryland State's attorney Marilyn Mosby's investigators "that she had caught only a glimpse of the attacker, on a rainy night and under duress." Moreover, Mosby herself admitted that "[t]he man in the composite sketch... lacked any notable features."
That's a problem, especially given that Bryant apparently did have distinctive features on November 20, 1998, the night of Bullock's murder. That murder took place at "about eight o'clock," and Powell indicated that the perpetrator
was in his early twenties and had a “bush and he had facial hair like he let his mustache grow, his beard.”....He was wearing “a black puff jacket, a red t-shirt under it and some blue jeans.”...He was a “couple of inches taller” than Powell's height of 5′ 3-1/2.”
I'm not sure how a couple of inches taller than 5′ 3-1/2” became 5' 10" to 5'11" in the above poster, and I'm also not sure how Ritz could have thought Bryant was guilty based upon timing and appearance.**
Franklin Wills testified that he had seen [Bryant] from five-thirty to sixthirty or six-forty-five on the evening of the stabbing. Wills said that [Bryant]'s hair was in braids and that he was wearing casual jeans and an eggshell white sweater. Wills did not recall whether [Bryant] had been wearing a jacket but said that the jacket [Bryant] normally wore was “an army fatigue-type jacket.”...Wills was again with [Bryant] from about ten o'clock that evening until the early hours of the next morning. His appearance was the same as it had been earlier in the day....
Antonio Brooks also saw [Bryant] on the evening of November 20, 1998. Brooks recalled that [Bryant]'s hair was “platted,” i.e., in “cornrows” and he was wearing blue jeans, a cream sweater and a green army fatigue jacket....Brooks said that [Bryant] had been with him from about seven o'clock on the evening of November 20, 1998 until three or four o'clock the next morning when they were put out of the Club Twilight Zone because they had been involved in a fight....
Dante Bailey confirmed that at 5:30 or 6:30 on the day in question [Bryant] had had “cornrows” and had been wearing a white sweater, blue jeans and brown shoes....
Daa'iyah Bryant testified that she was [Bryant]'s sister and had been a cosmetologist for nine years, currently employed at Superman's Barbershop....On November 18, 1998 she had put [Bryant]'s hair in braids at her mother's house....She had also seen [Bryant] on November 20 and he had “[t]wo day old braids going straight back.”...
Samuel Jackson saw [Bryant] late on the evening of November 20 and remembered that he had “[c]ornrows, like braids towards the back.” Jackson also recalled the “light color, like a white” sweater that [Bryant] had been wearing, “[b]ecause everybody wanted his sweater.”...Christina Helmsley said that [Bryant] had asked her to remove the braids on November 22, 1998, “explaining his head was breaking them - done over.” She had complied.
Nonetheless, Powell picked Bryant out of a lineup, albeit an outdated version of the lineup that has been replaced in Baltimore by "a 'double-blind' process in which witnesses are shown possible suspect pictures one-by-one instead of six at a time." As a result, Bryant was convicted, despite his alibi and appearance/attire on November 20th.
In 2011, however, a
court ordered the state to send nail clippings recovered from the victim for DNA testing. The DNA report revealed a partial male DNA profile on the nail clippings, which included a rare identifier, which did not match Mr. Bryant. Following the revelation of this evidence, the court ordered the state to then send the victim’s clothing for DNA testing.
The State, though, claimed that no DNA testing remained/fought additional DNA testing. Finally, the victim's t-shirt was tested in 2015 and
revealed a full male DNA profile that matched the partial profile from the nail clippings, including the rare identifier, which was inconsistent with Mr. Bryant’s DNA.
In total, six rounds of DNA testing were done, with the State claiming after each one that the results did not prove Bryant's innocence. Such protestations continued until recently, when the State changed its tune and supported Bryant's release.
In her press conference yesterday, Mosby said that it was "hard to reconcile that we live in a world that would take 17 years away from an innocent man," but she also claimed that there was no evidence of State misconduct. The first part of her statement is clearly correct. As for the second...that will likely be addressed soon in a court of law.
*Expect more on this soon.
**"Ritz attempted to find clothing of [Bryant]'s that would have matched the description given by Powell but he was unsuccessful.