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tv   2020  ABC  October 15, 2021 9:01pm-11:00pm PDT

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♪ ♪ do you remember the last thing you ever said to her? >> yeah. i told her “i love you and i'll see you tomorrow.” and it didn't happen. >> there's no way i can say it other than mickey has been murdered. >> occasionally i'll read about a case, and get mad and want to get involved. >> john grisham, world-famous, the author of dozens of books focusing on crime, was immediately hooked. >> i show up over there, and she's laying in bed, multiple gunshot wounds. >> why mickey? how could anybody do this to mickey? >> as the police are
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investigating there is an important piece of information. four months earlier, there had been another murder in clifton. >> they said, we found your sister, and she's gone. >> here you had a teenager killed, and they had a schoolteacher killed. that's a lot. >> they tell me i'm arrested for the murder of mickey. >> not in a million years would he even think about doing something like that. >> he just thought he was so smart. he didn't think anybody would ever dream that he would do that. >> the fact you have two murders in four months is pretty substantial. i'm going to dig a bit deeper. i thought, this is a pretty fascinating case. >> it is the most unbelievable case you will ever know. it's simply unbelievable. ♪ ♪n,asit ial
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was it, -- were you living your dream? >> oh, yes, perfectly. i may get emotional. >> it's painful to remember what life was like before. >> when you have your soulmate and you love each other and you respect each other, it makes life wonderful, and we had a wonderful life. >> this story begins as a love story in small town america.a aa >> clifton is a small city in central texas, about 35 miles north of waco. >> it's kind of a little bedroom community to waco, very peaceful, quiet. >> tight-knit, very school-oriented.
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a good place to live. ♪ ♪ >> clifton lived for football. everything revolved around that. >> in a lot of ways, it was a “friday night lights” town. >> everybody seemed like a family here. good place to raise your kids. >> kids walked the streets. everybody played outside. everybody knew everybody here. >> everybody knew everybody's business. if they didn't, they just made it up. >> like any small town, there are complicated relationships and hidden secrets. >> in 1985, joe bryan was the principal of the local high school. >> i loved it. i could not wait to get to work every day. >> his wife mickey bryan taught fourth grade at the local elementary school. >> i'll bet every kid in clifton, texas, had ms. bryan for a fourth grade teacher. everybody, they just loved her. >> mickey actually grew up in clifton. >> she was very quiet, shy. you could make her blush. very smart.
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if you gave her a basketball or a golf club, tennis racket, she was super competitive. >> she was one of the clifton cubs stars for the basketball team. >> she was ms. clifton high school. she was perfect. >> joe bryan actually grew up 45 miles away in a place called elm mott, texas, with his twin brother jerry and his older brother jim. >> joe was very popular, and he was always laughing and kidding someone. >> he was a cheerleader in high school. friendly with everybody. >> being around joe was always the best time. >> he always liked to dress up. he always liked to look good. >> he read a lot. he played the piano. >> he played all kinds of music and of course he played in the church. >> at christmastime, he used to play the piano at my grandmothers house in the big living room. i just remember being like in pajamas, dancing around to him
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playing the music. >> joe and mickey met when they were kids, but they began dating when they were in their late 20s. >> i was dating one of her cousins. i said, why don't you come down and spend the weekend? she said, well, okay. i guess i could get mickey to come with me. all through the weekend, i kept thinking, you know, i might be going with the wrong girl. mickey and i started dating and about a year and a half later, we were married. >> they were always together. >> joe couldn't carry on a conversation without mickey's name coming up into it. it was just mickey, mickey. >> mickey was the salt of the earth. very practical, very dependable. what she said, you could write it in a bible. >> they were very devoted to each other. >> we cooked together, we washed and cleaned the cars together, we did the yard work together. we walked every day.
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>> i don't know how long they were married, but they even still held hands when they'd walk down the street together. >> you would see joe and she walking, holding hands, and we'd wave at them. >> you can't fake that, that kind of love and devotion. >> they were what you would want your marriage to be. >> they were both dedicated public school teachers and they had a very quiet life in school, and church and friends. >> we both loved our jobs. we liked where we lived. we liked the people and the students. >> if there were students that needed a coat, needed school supplies, whatever, joe and mickey would go buy it for them. >> you were so good with kids, as was mickey, and yet you never had kids of your own. >> she couldn't have children. broke my heart. and hers, too. she just didn't talk about it. >> so your students were your children? >> yes, and we loved them.
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>> mickey, she loved those kids, and they loved her. >> she was my oldest son's fourth grade teacher. he talked about her all the time. ms. bryan this, ms. bryan that. i'll remember that smile for a hundred years. >> joe is at a principal's conference in austin, texas, 120 miles away. >> mickey stayed home as she normally would when joe would have to travel for work. >> i called mickey at 9:00 in the evening. we were watching the country music awards. and reba mcentire, i think, won. mickey and i were discussing it, because she and i used to dance all over the house all the time with country and western music. >> do you remember the last thing you ever said to her? >> yeah. i told her, i said, i love you and i'll see you tomorrow. she said, i love you too, i'll see you tomorrow. and it didn't happen. >> next morning i probably got to school about 7:15 or so.
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her door is closed. a few minutes later i look, still her room is not open. the other three teachers, all three of us were together, and we said, this is not right. she's always here by 7:00. always. >> rex daniels, the elementary principal, his secretary called the house. and did not get an answer. >> so rex said, i'm going to call her parents and have them meet me up at the house. >> first period class, no news. nothing. second period, the other three teachers and i are off. it's our conference period. and we said, we're going up there. so we got in my car and we drove up, and the street is blocked off.
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>> i started getting phone calls from people. is it true? >> mickey bryan had been brutally murdered. >> it did seem like the news just exploded in town. >> right now we're gonna handle this as an intruder and also as a homicide. >> it was a complete shock that something like that would happen to mickey. that's the thing about claims, you see. they don't happen on your schedule. i mean, take a chestnut, it doesn't just say “oh, beg pardon, sir, but is now a good time for a jolly bit of window cracking?” i mean, if they did, you wouldn't need a geico claims team that's available 24/7.
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the principal from mickey bryan's school has made a grim discovery when he finds her dead body in her bedroom. >> he said, ladies, i have something horrible to tell you, and no way i can even say it other than mickey has been murdered. >> i get a call that i needed to go to an address that there had been a murder. and i show up over there and she's laying on the bed, multiple gunshot wounds. >> she was shot four times with a revolver loaded with rat shot or snake shot. >> she was shot once in the abdomen and three times in the head. >> a snake shot round has this clear plastic cap, that's what used to keep in the tiny little
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pellets. there were tiny blue plastic particles that had been scattered around the room that are consistent with snake shot shells. >> there was blood spattered on the walls, on the ceiling fan. >> it was horrific. i mean, you can't even imagine how bad it was. you had blood everywhere. i mean, there wasn't a spot really in there that wasn't blood on it. >> 120 miles away at this conference in austin, a colleague pulls joe out and gives him the worst possible news. >> he told me, he said, i hate to tell you this, but mickey's been killed. i said, you got to be kidding. i said, mickey bryan at clifton? and he said yes. >> can you describe what that moment's like to hear that? >> instantly, you know your life is not like it was. >> i'm sure you had questions. >> i said, what can you tell me? do we know how?
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he just -- all i know, he says, that mickey's dead. i was heartbroken. >> we didn't want him to attempt to drive back to clifton. we drove him back. he sat in the backseat of the car on the way back. there wasn't a whole lot of conversation going on, but you could hear him crying. >> they told me i could not go in the house, that she was still there. >> did you hear about what that crime scene looked like? >> yes. but i didn't really realize the magnitude of it until i saw the pictures. >> i saw joe the very afternoon that it happened. joe put his arms around me, started crying and he said, what are we going to do without mickey? >> he was devastated. >> i started getting phone calls from people wanting to know, is
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it true? has mickey bryan been killed? >> it did seem like the news just explode in town. >> it was just bizarre. something that just did not happen. like i'm in a nightmare and just let me wake up. >> the police have no suspect. >> right now we're going to handle it as an intruder and possibly a burglary. >> she would be the last person on earth that i would think would get murdered. it just couldn't be. it just couldn't be. >> when you have a murder in a small town, the small town's not capable. you've got to bring in the professionals, and in texas, that's the texas rangers. and they've got their own lab and they know what they're doing. >> texas ranger joe wiley has come into clifton, texas, to assist police chief rob brennand in the investigation. >> wiley interviews joe bryan a day after joe's wife is murdered, and joe tells wiley he has no idea who would want to
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kill his wife. >> this is a tricky case. the neighbors haven't seen anything. there are no witnesses. >> mickey was found wearing nothing but her nightgown. she wasn't wearing any underwear, so of course one of the first things you think is maybe there's been a sexual assault. >> mickey bryan was not raped according to the rape kit test they ran. >> could this be a burglary or a robbery gone wrong? >> there were no obvious signs of forced entry. >> some of the things at the crime scene which seem to have indicate a robbery gone wrong were the fact that there was jewelry missing. >> she was missing her wristwatch and a dos pesos ring and her wedding band. >> $1,000 that him and mickey kept in a little tin metal box. law enforcement said that they
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looked for the money. it was not in there. >> joe's .38 caliber revolver is missing from the scene. >> it was a gun that they used to kill rattlesnakes out in their yard. >> cops assume this is the murder weapon, because it contains the type of ammunition that killed mickey. in addition to what's missing from the house, there's mysterious evidence in the house. >> there is a white pair of jockey brand underwear that's stained that's found in the trash can in the bathroom. >> they found the underwear in the trash can and said that it had been ejaculated in. >> something that would prove very important later is the analysis of the blood at the crime scene. >> as far as all of the blood that's found inside the bedroom, the texas rangers called in a detective named robert thorman. >> robert thorman was a police detective who had received training in bloodstain pattern analysis, which was a pretty new forensic discipline.
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>> the police collect all that information and try to figure it out as they put together this puzzle of the murder of mickey bryan. >> you don't want to admit that someone would have the audacity to go in our home and kill the most precious person in your life. you wonder why. who did it and why? >> did you have any theories? >> no. none. >> as the police are investigating, there is an important piece of information. four months earlier, there had been another murder in clifton. >> clifton is a very small town. in fact, you have two murders in four months is pretty substantial. >> 17-year-old girl going missing in clifton, texas, everybody's talking, everybody's wondering what's going on. >> they said, we found your sister and she's gone. >> you know, why would somebody
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hurt judy? >> were the two murders related? and if so, how and why? but i'm relentless every day. and having more days is possible with verzenio, proven to help you live significantly longer when taken with fulvestrant. verzenio + fulvestrant is for women with hr+, her2- metastatic breast cancer that has progressed after hormone therapy. diarrhea is common, may be severe, or cause dehydration or infection. at the first sign, call your doctor, start an anti-diarrheal, and drink fluids. before taking verzenio, tell your doctor about any fever, chills, or other signs of infection. verzenio may cause low white blood cell counts, which may cause serious infection that can lead to death. life-threatening lung inflammation can occur. tell your doctor about any new or worsening trouble breathing, cough, or chest pain. serious liver problems can happen. symptoms include fatigue, appetite loss, stomach pain, and bleeding or bruising. blood clots that can lead to death have occurred. tell your doctor if you have pain or swelling in your arms or legs, shortness of breath, chest pain and rapid breathing or heart rate, or if you are nursing, pregnant or plan to be. every day matters. and i want more of them.
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with access to tons of free movies and shows. more bang for your buck. can your internet do that? like your outfit, girl. why thank you! ok, now it's a party! get started with xfinity internet for $19.99 a month for 12 months and add a flex 4k streaming box for free. click, call, or visit a store today. murders were not common back in clifton, texas. >> there are some small towns around the country that don't experience a murder for a generation or two or even longer.
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what's strange about clifton, about this case, is that clifton was already reeling from the gruesome murder that happened just four months before mickey bryan was murdered. >> in june of 1985, a girl named judy whitley, soon to be a sophomore at clifton high school, left her house to go to hilltop grocery a few blocks away to buy some snacks. >> she was 17 years old. she played in the band at the high school. she liked to read. she played with dolls, god, up until she was 14 years old. she was a good kid. >> my sister had called me and said, judy's missing. i said, what do you mean she's missing? she walked to the store and we haven't seen her since. >> they put out on the wire that night that there was a missing
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girl. >> my mother's a wreck. >> we go out in the country driving around, checking houses, checking friends, looking for judy, and get a call that say they found her. >> they found her maybe 50 yards from hilltop grocery in a wooded area. and she had been raped and murdered. >> a clifton police officer broke the news to the family. >> he said, we found your sister, and she's gone. of course, everybody loses it. >> nobody could figure out what was going on. why would somebody hurt judy? >> three weeks after judy's murder, the whitley family suffered a new shock. >> a rumor was going around that judy had kept a diary. >> the police department had
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gotten a tip from one of judy's friends, something about, well, maybe it was at her grandmother's house. and so they were going to search the grandmother's house the next day. >> we're all asleep late at night. all of a sudden we hear this explosion. my grandmother's house. her house blew up. luckily, my grandmother was out of town. >> i don't know that there was even a diary in the first place. but somebody obviously thought there was. you kind of do a nancy drew and you put two and two together. somebody didn't want them to find that diary. >> weeks go by, and there are no arrests in judy's murder. >> police say the murder remains a mystery and have declined to comment on any leads in the case. >> and then right on the heels of judy whitley being murdered, mickey bryan is murdered. >> after mickey was murdered, fear was all over clifton. people were scared. >> here you had a teenager
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killed. now you had the schoolteacher killed. that's a lot. >> especially in small towns, there's a tremendous amount of angst and panic. >> because the whole community is worried that maybe there's a killer out there. and so the police are under enormous pressure right off the bat to solve the crime. >> john grisham, the bestselling author, says he was fascinated by this story, even finding inspiration in joe bryan's case for one of his books. >> four days into the investigation of mickey's murder, there's a new development involving mickey's brother, charlie blue, who had come to town for her funeral. charlie was an executive at an agro-chemical company. >> charlie blue lived in florida, so when he came in he didn't have a car. so he asked to borrow joe's car. >> charlie blue's involvement in this case changed the entire trajectory of the investigation. >> charlie had a friend who was
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a former fbi agent, bud saunders, so he called up his friend and he said, hey, i want to hire you as a private investigator. come out please and start looking into my sister's case. i want to find out what happened. >> they're driving around in joe's car, just driving through the country talking about the case. >> they stop the car so that the fbi agent can relieve himself beside the road. and then, he gets mud on his shoes, so they look in the trunk for a rag to wipe his shoes off with. and they see a flashlight and a cardboard box with the lens up. >> charlie tells police he noticed, quote, what appeared to be blood specs on the lens of the flashlight. >> charlie and bud contact the texas rangers. >> so rangers obtain a search warrant. they remove the flashlight and they conduct a thorough search of the rest of the car.
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>> the rangers returned the car to charlie and he parks it back outside joe's house. >> joe meanwhile does not have any idea that this has happened. >> when he is getting his car back for the first time in several days, he takes it, fill it up, and adds this fuel additive because of the kind of model car that it was at the time. >> now joe says that when he was looking for the fuel additive, he found that money that had been missing from his house. $850 of the missing $1,000. joe says he remembered he and mickey had taken the cash on a shopping trip to waco, texas, a couple of weeks before the murder. >> he said it had slipped his mind, on the worst day of his life, that that had happened. >> he reports it the next day. reports it to the chief of police. says, hey, i found this money. because of what happened i forgot where i put it.
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just wanted to let you know that we don't need to consider it missing anymore. >> the police say that during their search of the car, there was no money in there. >> for a police officer, that is very significant. that's going to set off some alarm bells in the minds of these detectives because in their view, joe bryan has just lied to them. and for an innocent man, you don't need to lie about anything. >> the next day, the crime lab comes back with testing from the specks found on the flashlight. >> law enforcement said the substance that was on the flashlight was blood type o, which was mickey's blood type. >> and it's determined that blue plastic particles found stuck to the blood on the front of the lens had the same, quote, characteristics and composition of the casing of the snake shot that was used to kill mickey. >> police now believe that the flashlight is linked to mickey's murder, and the fact that it's found in joe's car, in their minds, implicates joe. >> armed with the information from the flashlight along with what they considered to be a false story from joe bryan, police get an arrest warrant for
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joe bryan. >> the doorbell rang. i get the doorbell, and there stands the sheriff, mr. wiley the texas ranger, and rob brennand the police chief. and they walk in and tell me i'm arrested for the murder of mickey. >> what was your reaction? >> i said, you've got to be kidding. >> were you really surprised? >> yes! >> you had no idea this was coming? >> no! why would i be expecting it? i had no clue. >> initially everybody thought he was innocent, and then all the rumors started. >> investigators found what they believed was a clue that joe bryan was leading a secret life. the clue? a chippendales calendar. [knocking on door] ♪ ♪ so many bottles of champagne ♪ ♪ ♪ i'm in a room with the famous faces ♪ “ready and action!” ♪ oh, i feel like scorsese ♪ ♪
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bosque county resident joe bryan resident is awaiting trial for the murder of his wife. bryan is accused of the october 15th shooting death of his wife mickey. >> i am watching the nightly news, and they put up my uncle's picture and say he was arrested for the murder of his wife. >> i was at my mom and dad's house.
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and i heard someone saying, penny, are yhave you listened t the news? they've arrested joe bryan. >> i didn't believe joe murdered mickey for a second. nobody did. >> everybody was, nah, that didn't happen. he was a deacon at the baptist church. >> not in a million years would he ever even think about doing something like that. he has no reason. >> joe's arrest was like a shockwave through town. >> it wasn't just that many people in clifton doubted that joe had a reason to kill mickey. a lot of them doubted that joe could have killed mickey. >> he had an alibi. joe was at an education conference some 120 miles away in austin. >> that night there was a terrible rainstorm in both austin and clifton that later turned into a heavy fog. >> joe had some real vision issues and did not drive at night. if at all avoidable. >> one would have to believe
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that he left his room, got into his car somewhere around 9:30 at night, drove 120 miles in a driving rainstorm. >> it would be like a five-hour round trip with normal weather conditions. >> so for him to have driven to clifton in a rainstorm and killed his wife, cleaned up, and gotten back to austin and been in a meeting in a suit and tie at 8:00 in the morning was virtually impossible. >> but we're talking about 9:00 at night and she was found at 7:00 the next morning. that's a lot of hours in there. it just makes you wonder. >> initially everybody thought he was innocent, and then all the rumors started. the rumors weren't just about mickey's death. some people were trying to tie joe to the murder of judy whitley four months earlier. >> people were kind of saying, well, if he did that, he very
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well could have done this. >> it was said that he killed the whitley girl, his wife found out about it, so he had to kill her too. >> rumor went around that the girl cleaned house for them, which was false. but they got it all bundled up in a neat little package, so nobody had to be afraid. >> out of jail on a $50,000 bond, and adamant that he didn't do it, joe said that he was trying to figure out who did. >> i'm thinking, how did someone get in our house? and i immediately thought someone could have made copies of the keys and gotten in the house. >> one thing that he says is that he had this seemingly innocuous interaction with a security member of the hotel by the name of jack shaw. >> tell me about jack shaw. >> this gentleman walks up with a hyatt regency name tag on and tells me they've been reported that their maids are taking
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things from the rooms and would i work with them to try to catch somebody. >> joe said, yeah, he'd be willing to do that. >> he tells me just leave your keys and some money on the dresser. later that afternoon i went back upstairs, and he met me at the door. he opened the door with a key. he had on a hyatt regency blazer, and a name tag that says “hyatt regency,” so why would i doubt who he said he was? >> he thought it was just legit, but he got to thinking after mickey was killed that maybe there was something there. >> i drove to austin and i asked, do you have a jack shaw who works here? no, we do not. >> joe said he was trying to prove his innocence, but when investigators heard this story, they were suspicious and conducted their own investigation. >> they never found jack shaw. >> hyatt's position was that nobody by that name worked at that hotel. >> so that made joe look very bad. it made it look like joe was lying to the police. it magnified how guilty the
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police viewed joe. >> and it wasn't the only thing they believed he was hiding. >> during the search of his trunk, investigators found what they believed was a clue that joe bryan was leading a secret life. a chippendales calendar. >> a chippendales calendar of guys, you know, with just pants on and no shirts. >> they immediately suspected joe was gay. that could be the motive. it was all a whisper. >> in texas, being gay was against the law. >> you could be arrested and fined for homosexual sex, even if it was in the privacy of your own home. >> things are different now today than they were. but back then in central texas it was a big thing, especially the principal of your high school. >> joe said that the chippendales calendar was something that he and mickey had bought together as a gag gift for one of their single friends. but that chippendale calendar police took as proof positive
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that this man is indeed gay and therefore had motive to kill his wife. >> the police department and the texas rangers started throwing out the idea that he's gay. >> the chief came to my office and insinuated that that joe was gay. i told him he was out of his mind. that was not true. just because joe drank dr. pepper instead of beer and played the piano instead of golf did not make him gay. >> the number one list of possible motives was queer. >> in the investigation notes, police seemed to question your sexual orientation. >> yes. >> they wrote comments alluding that you being gay was the motive to murdering your wife. >> they implied that, yes. they never said it to my face because i would have knocked them out. >> under suspicion for killing his wife, joe's life was unraveling. >> mickey's family cuts off all
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communication with joe. >> he's disgusting. you want out of a marriage? that's what divorces are for. you don't shoot somebody. a lot of people knew from the get-go that he had done that. i think he just thought he was so smart. he didn't think anybody would ever dream that he would do that. >> the stakes for joe bryan couldn't be higher. >> decisions were made during that trial by joe bryan that made this a completely different case. >> it went bad. why hide your skin if dupixent has your moderate-to-severe eczema or atopic dermatitis under control? hide my skin? not me. by hitting eczema where it counts, dupixent helps heal your skin from within, keeping you one step ahead of eczema. and that means long-lasting clearer skin... and fast itch relief for adults. hide my skin? not me. by helping to control eczema with dupixent, you can show more with less eczema.
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a jury was seated late today in the bosque county murder trial of clifton high school
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>> before the trial started, i got with joe and i told him we need to change the venue. he said, definitely not. i'm innocent and i want to be judged by my peers. >> after more than five hours of intense questioning, attorneys selected seven men and five women to sit on the jury that will decide bryan's innocence or guilt. >> joe bryan had hired attorneys out of waco to represent him. charles mcdonald and lynn malone. >> on the other side, we have district attorney andrew mcmullen, and special prosecutor gary lewellen. >> lewellen was hired by mickey bryan's family. >> he was paid $10,000 by mickey's family to prosecute joe alongside andrew mcmullen. >> the defense objected to lewellyn's presence at the counsel table. >> this is an offense against the people in the state, and it should be tried by representatives of the state, namely the district attorney that's appointed. >> the use of the special prosecutor is not uncommon in
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texas. it's a perfectly legal thing that you can do, but the victim's family was financially supporting the prosecution, and that is something that's very unique. >> the state said lewellyn was hired as the special prosecutor to help district attorney, andy mcmullen, who was the sole prosecutor for three counties and was overworked. >> bryan pleaded not guilty to the murder today in open court. >> this is the quintessential circumstantial evidence case. the murder weapon is literally missing. >> there was nothing that placed joe in clifton that night. no eyewitnesses saw him or his car. >> even more importantly, there was no forensic evidence gathered from the crime scene itself that conclusively showed joe bryan was the murderer. >> a standing-room-only crowd in the bosque county district court room listened today as texas ranger joe wilie confirmed that there is no scientific evidence linking clifton high school principal joe bryan to the
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murder of his wife. >> the prosecution hinged on the flashlight. >> james charles blue of plant city, florida, told prosecutors blue found a bloodstained flashlight in the trunk of bryan's car. >> law enforcement said there was back spatter on the flashlight from type-o blood, which was mickey's blood type. but while the flashlight was found four days after the crime in the trunk of joe's car, the car hadn't been in his possession for those four days. >> there's all kinds of things that could have happened. it's a matter of chain of custody. >> charlie blue had the car, and when asked at trial if he put the flashlight in the trunk, he said no, that he found it there. even joe testified that his gut told him that charlie had not planted the flashlight. so, how did it get there? >> anybody could have entered or left the car. they could have put the flashlight in. >> for a juror to believe the prosecution's theory, they would
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have to believe that joe was smart enough to mastermind the murder yet still made this critical mistake by leaving the flashlight in the trunk of the car. >> who in their right mind would do what they said i was supposed to have done and just leave a flashlight in the car in the trunk? >> when's the last time you saw that flashlight? >> before i left to go to austin. >> and where was it? >> on the dresser in our bedroom. >> what the prosecution needed to do was prove that the flashlight was involved in mickey's murder. and they called a witness who did just that. >> detective robert thorman analyzed the blood spatter at the crime scene and took the stand to describe what he believed that blood spatter proved. >> everything that he testified to had numbers and data. i sounded scientific. >> when you have a law enforcement officer saying, i have received special training, that's incredibly powerful. >> people want to believe the
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authorities. they want to believe the police, they are in awe of the system. >> what detective thorman testified to, essentially, is that he believed that the killer would have to be holding the flashlight at the time of the murder. >> and that when he shot mickey bryan, the blood spattered back on him and onto the flashlight. >> and this testimony did what nothing else had done, it tied the flashlight to the bedroom at the time of the murder. >> thorman also testified that the killer would have to have changed his clothes and his shoes in order not to leave a bloody trail. >> so the implication was that if it was your bedroom, your clothes and your shoes, it would be easy to change, and that implicated joe bryan. >> there's no proof of that.
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the expert is not qualified to speculate, but the judge let it all in. that was damaging. >> a lab analyst who evaluated the stain on the underwear found in the trash can testified that it was semen and that it could have come from joe bryan. >> my uncle got on the stand, you know, to try to defend himself, and it just seemed unreal watching my uncle's life on the line. >> bryan in tears turned to the jury and said, quote, i did not kill mickey, so help me god. bryan said he did not know who put the flashlight in the trunk of his car. i don't know who killed her, bryan said, if i did, i wouldn't be up here fighting for my life. >> joe had no alibi other than his own word that he was asleep in his hotel room that night, . >> and then it got turned over to garry lewellyn to cross rally tore him apart.
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>> lewellyn chipped away at joe's credibility, suggesting that his actions were actually consistent with guilt. he testified about this fanciful thing with this jack shaw story. >> to be honest with you, i don't know what to make of the story. i have questioned joe for 30 years about that story. he says it's true. >> if it looks like you're lying as to this one thing that you said, then it's difficult sometimes for a jury to believe, oh, he's telling the truth here, but he's lying here. people just generally tend to think, well, we can't trust anything that he says. >> as for a motive, the state didn't need to prove one, but texas ranger joe wilie had pointed to here life insurance policy and testified she's worth over $300,000 to him dead if you want to surmise a motive. >> 36 character witnesses took the stand and painted this picture of joe's love for mickey, but it was unclear if that was going to be enough.
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>> i was walking down the hall, and one of our friends called us in. they said they already got the verdict. anytime that happens you know you know it's not good. >> a bosque county jury this afternoon convicted and sentenced former clifton high school principal joe bryan on murder charges. >> when you hear that guilty verdict -- >> you're stunned. like, how could they do this? >> their beloved high school principal. >> you just can't believe something like that can happen to you. >> things just did not add up. >> a shocking piece of new information was found. >> you have another alternate, much more viable suspect, it completely changes the dynamic of everything. >> this is a bombshell. >> he said, i'm going to kill you. the look in his eyes was pure evil. that was the most evil look i've
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the plot of the guardians is base on a true story, sad to say. >> john grisham so believed in joe bryan's innocence it sparked his best selling nofl "the guardians." >> really intrigued by the factual scenario that convicted joe bryan. >> when you hear that guilty verdict? >> you're stunned. like, how can they do this, and you're innocent. >> who killed his beloved wife mickey, the woman he loved? he's santa claus, he's your sunday schoolteacher. >> i truly believe he is a very dangerous person. >> some people are trying to tie joe to the murder of judy
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whitley four months earlier. >> they discover that actually there was a suspect in that murder. >> he wanted to handcuff me. >> when he saw you, he got hooked and he didn't leave you alone. >> the logical question was whether or not he had anything to do with mickeys. >> bam. mic drop. this is a bombshell. joe bryan, guilty of the october 1985 shooting death of his wife, mickey. >> convicted and sentenced former clifton high school principal joe bryan on murder charges. >> the state's version was that joe was 120 miles away in austin, texas. he drove through the night back to clifton.
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he murdered mickey when she was in her house alone, got rid of the murder weapon, drove back to austin and pretended to be ignorant of everything that had happened when he was informed the next day. >> bryan was given the maximum punishment for the murder, 99 years in prison. >> when you hear that guilty verdict -- >> you're stunned. like, how could they do this? and you're innocent. >> joe bryan had no comment on the verdict. he soon will be transferred to the state prison in huntsville. >> everything you've worked for has been taken from you. everything you love has been taken from you. everything materially that you had been taken from you. all you have is just yourself. >> bryan who was convicted of the murder earlier this week was moved from the clinton county jail last night at the request of the bosque county sheriff's department. >> the first time i went to prison to see joe, i cried the whole time. >> this man who's played cards with us, taken us to the movies is now having to talk to us through glass.
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>> i always felt like he felt so sad and ashamed over something that he couldn't control. >> attorney for convicted murder joe bryan filed a 39-page appeal today. >> but then two years later, a huge break for the defense. >> testimony by police at joe's trial suggested that he'd killed mickey for a $300,000 life insurance policy. but the truth was they had insurance on each other that was half that amount. >> that was a critical fact that the court of appeal felt merited a new trial. joe bryan's conviction is overturned and he was released from prison. >> even though joe is free, he's far from off the hook. prosecutors are determined to retry the case. >>heontrial med to nc, xa 70 m from clifton, awayrothe
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rumors, and all this would be fixed. >> so ultimately you got a second trial? >> yes. >> how did that compare at all with the first one? >> same railroad track. >> it was the same judge. from what i understand, it would just replay, just a summer rerun, the trial was. >> this time, he's lost a lot of the supporters that he had before. i think that people had largely settled into the idea that he must actually be a murderer. >> the defense in the second case presented only five character witnesses, which is only a fraction of the 36 that testified in the first trial. >> ashamed to say it, but i didn't want to be involved anymore, and that's how i handled it. just not going to do any of that anymore. put it behind me. >> yet again, detective robert thorman testifies about the blood spatter. >> after just three hours of
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deliberation, another jury convicts joe bryan of the murder of his wife. >> after the second conviction, it seems like it might be case closed, but not for everybody, including a man named leon smith. >> i was a publisher of the "clifton record" and also its editor. i was following the case, and things just did not add up. i didn't think he did it. i didn't think he had the personality to do that. it appeared that he and mickey got along fine. they were just a remarkable couple. >> that's when the judy whitley case, the case of the young woman murdered only four months before mickey bryan, comes back to the forefront. >> the high school student's body was later found in a wooded area not far from her home. >> in 1991, i was visited by don whitley. they had not solved his daughter's murder and it bothered them all the time. and they thought about her all the time and they wanted to know
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why, why was she killed and who did it? >> the whitley family wanted the show “unsolved mysteries” to investigate. leon agreed to help contact the show. >> i had asked him if there was a particular angle that he thought that i should take. and he said, well, they need to consider both murders as linked, mickey bryan and judy whitley. now, as i had mentioned it to the initial chief that i thought it was strange that two murders like that happened so close together, and i thought that there might be a linkage there, but they kept telling me there's no way. there's no way these things have anything to do with each other. they're completely separate cases. >> leon reached out to clifton police chief jim vanderhoof who had taken over from rob brennan as chief of police of clifton, texas. >> he was real serious about trying to clear up some cold cases, so we agreed to get together and go through the
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whitley box at the police station to look through evidence. >> smith gets a look at documents that reference that there was a suspect in the whitley murder. it's a man named dennis dunlap, a local cop who had been part of the small clifton force. >> dennis dunlap was a strange character, i'll tell you. >> he unsettled many of the women in clifton. >> i started getting this really uneasy feeling. >> and you know you can feel it, when somebody's staring. >> when he saw you he got hooked, and he didn't leave you alone. you leave supporting brighter futures. and bigger dreams. supporting family business, girls with curls, and working moms. when you shop black-owned, mexican-american-owned, korean and queer-owned, you leave with change in your hands. ♪ end music ♪
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♪ ♪ leon smith is now completely immersed, poring over the case of joe bryan. leon decides to visit joe in prison and interview him about both judy whitley's murder and mickey's murder. >> i was led into a big room that had a cage in the middle of it. sat down and said hello, and we stayed there for over four hours without being interrupted. >> joe told leon that when he got out, he was going to find mickey's killer. when leon asked joe about the whitley murder, joe said that he and mickey had been in arkansas the day judy went missing. >> he'd heard rumors, he said, that an officer on the force had done it, but at the time he'd
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urged people to look at all the facts before you start making a decision about who's guilty. >> leon published the four-hour interview in three installments in the clifton record. >> what he didn't include was the name of the police officer joe had heard had done it, dennis dunlap. >> dennis dunlap had initially been a suspect. >> right off the bat, everything started looking at dunlap. dennis dunlap was a strange character, i'll tell you. >> he was really intense. dishwater blonde hair and he always wore cowboy boots. >> he had joined the clifton police force in january of 1985. >> i didn't like him. didn't think much about the way he did his job. >> shortly after he had come to town, he began to try to pick up women.
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>> judy whitley's sister, patricia, met him at a convenience store where she worked. >> he actually asked me out on a date from the store, so we went to waco like everybody else used to do. drove back to clifton, took me to his apartment. and then i said, i got to go to the bathroom. so i walked down the hall, and then i started getting this uneasy feeling, because when i was walking down the hall i could see pictures of -- well, it was women with leathers and chains on. it was unnerving. and so i just came back and i said, i think i'm ready to go home. i never did go out with him again. ♪ ♪ >> i worked at the dry cleaners, and he came in. it's really loud in there. i didn't hear what he was saying, and i was ringing him up. but when he walked out, the lady
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behind him that i worked with said, you need to be careful. he just asked you to go home and go to bed with him. >> when he approached me, i was at the dairy queen with my youngest son. you know, you can feel it, when somebody's staring. i waited until he left before my son and i left, because i didn't want him to see what kind of car i got in. >> when he saw you he got hooked, and he didn't leave you alone. >> he wouldn't take no fr the answer. we drove off and he followed us. >> the look in his eyes was pure evil. that was the most evil look i've ever seen. >> but not everybody said no at first. >> we actually dated for about a week and a half, and we got married. >> elaine allen was working at one of clifton's two grocery stores and raising three sons. >> it was hard. then here comes this city cop that took an interest in me. it's just like a wonder came into my life. >> elaine says things between her and dunlap changed almost
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immediately after they got married. >> he wanted to handcuff me and have sex with me, and it scared me and i said no. we're not doing that stuff, unh-unh. >> dunlap wasn't only stalking the women of clifton. according to elaine, he was stalking his own wife. >> my mobile home had one big window facing out the back. and he told me that he was watching me. and i said, "watching me?" he had night vision binoculars, and he was sitting across the street watching me. and then because we were married, he would just come in the house and he would stand there and watch me sleep. it really gave me the creeps really bad that he could be standing five feet away from me
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and i didn't know it. >> elaine kicked dunlap out only two weeks after they were married and only six weeks before judy whitley was murdered. >> the clifton high school student's body was later found in a wooded area not far from her home. >> dunlap volunteered to be the cop who broke the news to judy's family that she'd been murdered. >> dunlap had told the family things that he should not have known. >> remember judy whitley allegedly had a diary that she kept in her grandmother's house. >> sometime during the night before they had a chance to go look for the diary, the house blew up. >> he was the officer on duty the night of the house explosion. he did not stay around to help. according to the sheriff's office dispatch records. and let other officers direct traffic and deal with the fire department. >> the morning after the explosion, dunlap was actually interviewed by texas ranger joe wilie.
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according to wilie's report, dunlap asked to be given a polygraph. >> afterward, the examiner concluded that dunlap was not responsible for the death of judy whitley and had not been sexually involved with her. >> fellow officer kenneth fields says dunlap was, however, relieved of his duties, and he resigned the very next day. he then left town. >> now more than six years later, judy's murder remained unsolved. >> fields, for one, continued to believe that dunlap was responsible. >> fields wrote in an affidavit that he wanted to arrest dunlap after he'd left town but was told he had no case. >> fields said he kept investigating but just could not get any hard evidence against dunlap. >> now that leon learned dunlap had been a suspect in judy's murder, the logical question was whether or not he had anything to do with mickey's. >> in 1996, the texas rangers, along with the clifton police, track down and interviewed another one of dunlap's ex-wives, a woman he'd married
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after leaving clifton. >> she made statements on a recorded interview that he may have been with mickey the night she was murdered. >> all he told me was that he dated her. he was dating that lady. he was going -- i want to say -- i'm not for sure he dropped her off that night or that evening. >> bam. mic drop. this is a bombshell. this is earth shattering. ja yoo. if i have something to help me breathe better, everything will be fun and nice. but i still have bad days... flare-ups, (cough cough) which can permanently damage my lungs. my lungs need protection against flare-ups. so it's time to get real. because in the real world... our lungs deserve the real protection of breztri. breztri gives you better breathing... symptom improvement, and flare-up protection. it's the first and only copd medicine proven to reduce flare-ups by 52%.
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leon smith was convinced that dennis dunlap had something to do with judy's murder so he wrote him letters about it.
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>> leon was working with the current clifton police chief, jim vanderhfof, who in trying to solve judy's case had learned about the suspicions against dunlap. >> so now he had begun this campaign to try to see if he could get him to come forward, come clean, show up, come back to the crime scene. >> leon and dunlap exchange letters over a few months. >> on my last letter to him, i mentioned points in which he was considered a suspect in judy whitley's murder. >> dunlap denied he'd done it and told leon he would have to go in a different direction because it wasn't me, he said. >> dunlap hadn't taken the bait. at that point the trail went cold again. >> i got a phone call from chief vanderhoof who told me that dennis dunlap was dead. he hanged himself in his garage. my biggest concern then was how do we prove that he killed
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whitley? >> it seemed like it was the end of the story. >> but the local police had found leon's letters to dunlap when they investigated his death and contacted the clifton police department. >> clifton pd and the texas rangers sent a team to investigate, and that's when they got a few breaks. >> my name is christine nix, sergeant with texas rangers company of waco. >> rex childress, sergeant with clifton police department. >> the officers were interviewing dunlap's most recent ex-wife, who had divorced him the year before he died. >> how did the subject of the whitley girl come up initially? >> he was laying on the couch and he said, well, some texas rangers may come by and see me or they may take me away. and then i said, well, why? he said because he was a suspect in a case where he was a policeman at. >> did you ever have occasion
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to hear him talk about it? >> yes. he had called his mother, and he says, mama, they're after me again. something to that effect, about that murder there in clifton. i heard him whisper into the phone, i'm glad they didn't find gray tape in my -- the trunk of my car. >> the ex-wife went on to say that dunlap had confessed he'd murdered judy to his closest friend. that friend then told her about it. >> he says, well, yeah, dennis told me that he did do it. >> when investigators questioned dunlap's friend, he signed an affidavit saying dunlap had told him about the murder. >> he confirmed that dunlap said he killed the girl, judy whitley. he bragged about how he did it and how she died. a lot of detail. >> hoping to get a posthumous indictment, the police department continued to investigate.
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although they weren't able to get that indictment, the clifton police department still wanted to provide an answer to the whitley family. and in 1999, they publicly named dennis dunlap responsible for the death of judy whitley. >> i was devastated. it makes you so cold inside. >> nobody besides leon was looking into mickey's case anymore. >> as far as law enforcement was concerned, mickey's case was closed. >> that's when the bryan family found walter reaves. >> walter reaves will take up the cause of people who say, i am innocent and i've been wrongly convicted. and that's what he did in joe's case. >> it's not just enough to be innocent. that doesn't get you anywhere. you have to have something else to be able to get back in court on. >> in 2012, reeves requested dna testing to see if it could clear joe.
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>> the dna results were inconclusive, but one result from the test was completely unexpected. the first step in the dna analysis tested the lens of that flashlight that had been the linchpin in the state's argument. and according to reeves, it came back presumptively negative for the presence of blood. >> what was presumed by everybody to be blood turned out to not be blood. >> walter enlisted some of his students at baylor university's law school. >> i was walter reaves' intern at baylor law school. and this was the first case he assigned me. >> she just took it and ran with it. >> she wanted to go in and basically start from scratch, as far as investigating goes. it brings new light, new eyes to what you've investigated. what are you missing? >> the most shocking piece of new information came from that 1996 interview with dennis dunlap's most recent ex-wife. >> did he ever mention any other murders or any other cases?
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>> either i read it or he told me about it, was the lady where the principamu her, he was dating that lady. i want to say, i'm not for sure, he dropped her off that night or that evening. >> bam. right? like, that's mic drop, okay? this is earth shattering news. >> before the state's narrative was a cohesive unit. theoretically possible that this man drove from austin to clifton, killed his wife for whatever reason, and then drove back to austin. >> if you have officer dunlap in mickey's house the night of the murder, it completely changes the dynamic of everything. not only do you have another alternate, much more viable suspect, but even if you don't count him as a suspect, the theory haso change. >> joe should have been exonerated and freed years ago, but it hasn't happened. >> do you believe that one day justice will be served?
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>> yes, i do. >> we believe the blood spatter testimony, the flashlight, the stuff we found out about dunlap. you pile them on top of each other, and that establishes that he's actually innocent. have it. not my uncle, though. he's taking trulicity for his type 2 diabetes and now, he's really on his game. once-weekly trulicity lowers your a1c by helping your body release the insulin it's already making. most people reached an a1c under 7%. plus, trulicity can lower your risk of cardiovascular events. it can also help you lose up to ten pounds. trulicity is for type 2 diabetes. it isn't for people with type 1 diabetes. it's not approved for use in children. don't take trulicity if you're allergic to it, you or your family have medullary thyroid cancer, or have multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2. stop trulicity and call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction, a lump or swelling in your neck, severe stomach pain, changes in vision, or diabetic retinopathy. serious side effects may include pancreatitis.
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by 2018, joe bryan had spent 30 years in prison, and by all accounts, he was a model prisoner. >> stayed busy reading books, watching the news, reading newspapers, working puzzles, lots of library books. >> he played piano for the prison chapel. he tutored other inmates for their geds. >> you have to accept the fact, whether you like it or not, you're in prison. you can either make the most of it and be the person you always were, or you can be someone who acts out, who's rude, crude,
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disrespectful, mad at the world. i chose to be me. >> en ough eligible for parole starting in 2007, his parole had been repeatedly denied. >> every time he went in to have a parole hearing we always would think this would be it, he was gonna get out, which he never did. so then it would be a disappointment again to us. >> he knows probably in the back of his mind if he ever once said he was sorry that he did this, he probably could have gotten out on parole, but he refuses to do that because he didn't do it. >> joe told me when i visited him in jail, if i have to die in prison, i'll just have to die in prison, but i did not kill mickey, and i'm not going to say that i did just to get out. he said, i just want to clear my name. >> a game changer for joe was a two-part report by pamela colloff published by “the new york times” and the investigative journalism site “propublica.”
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>> it asked, did he do it or had there been a terrible mistake? >> leon smith, he's the one that gave pam colloff a lot of the information, and then she investigated. >> john grisham, world famous, the author of dozens of books focusing on crime, read the article and was immediately hooked. >> it reads like a novel. it's a page turner, and i read it and re-read it. i was struck by just the really incredibly sloppy science that was given to the jury. >> the article focused on the blood-spatter expert, detective robert thorman, who testified at both of his trials and called into question his testimony and his credentials. >> he had spent 40 hours in a seminar learning blood spatter techniques four months before the murder. he had no real scientific background. >> any time you have questionable forensic evidence, that came in, during a trial, what you can do is ask the texas forensic science commission to
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look at it, to get involved. >> we filed a complaint, which they accepted. and they ended up taking it, getting their own experts. >> unfortunately, mr. thorman's methodology that he utilized never followed, even in 1985, the proper procedure. detective thorman made several opinions of which none of them were scientifically supportable. >> the commission determined that thorman's testimony was unreliable. >> not understanding the limitations of bloodstain pattern analysis, not understanding how to use proper techniques, that is catastrophic in a criminal trial. >> the blood stain analysis was not based on scientific principles. it was all junk. we knew that. it was all bogus science. occasionally i'll read about a case and get mad and want to get
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involved, contact the lawyers, contact somebody and go see the person in prison. i went to see him a in beaumont, texas. we had a great visit. he's santa claus, okay? he's your sunday school teacher. he's the sweetest guy you're going to meet, okay? his spirit was unbroken. he laughed a lot, smiled a lot. pretty remarkable guy. >> grisham so believed in joe bryan's innocence, it helped spark the idea for his 2019 bestselling novel, “the guardians.” >> this is part of the author's note to “the guardians.” and i write, the plot of "the guardians" is based on a real story, sad to say. it involves a texas inmate named joe bryan. joe should have been exonerated and freed years ago, but it hasn't happened. >> at this point, it seems like momentum was really building for joe's case. >> his attorneys are determined to get him a new trial. >> a man behind bars for decades lands back in the courtroom. he's trying to get his murder
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conviction overturned. >> all of us in our hearts thought this may be the time that they would release him. >> honestly, i felt like, ahh! the world is getting to see what we've known for 30-something years. you know, the trooit. >> the stakes here are potentially he can be released. why hide your skin if dupixent has your moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis under control? hide our skin? not us. because dupixent targets a root cause of eczema, it helps heal your skin from within, keeping you one step ahead of it. and for kids ages 6 and up, that means clearer skin, and noticeably less itch. hide my skin? not me. by helping to control eczema with dupixent, you can change how their skin looks and feels. and that's the kind of change you notice. hide my skin? not me. don't use if you're allergic to dupixent. serious allergic reactions can occur, including anaphylaxis, which is severe. tell your doctor about new or worsening eye problems,
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a man behind bars for decades, lands back in the courtroom. joe bryan was convicted of murdering his wife 33 years ago, but now he has one last shot at freedom. >> joe bryan was back in the courthouse. this time for what's called an evidentiary hearing. >> the hope of joe's team with the evidentiary hearing was that it would lead to a new trial. and for the chance for joe to finally prove his actual innocence in a court of law. >> joe's legal team argued that there is newly discoverable and newly available evidence that shows he's actually innocent.
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and they said some of the evidence against him at trial was false. >> it is your last chance of trying to get your case set aside and going home. >> in your original trial, you're innocent until proven guilty. now you're guilty until proven innocent. >> here were a lot of people in the courtroom that really cared about the case. >> bryan's family filled the front of the courtroom. >> several people with shirts that say “justice for joe” are supporting the 77-year-old during the hearing. >> the defense looked at forensic testing from the first two trials, including the semen on the underwear, which current testing actually showed was inconclusive, and the blood spatter evidence. >> blood spatter expert celestina rossi was brought in to testify about the blood spatter testimony of officer robert thorman in the original trials. >> it's false, it's unscientific, and, i mean, it's the most horrifying thing
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i've ever read in my life. >> and when she said that, this courtroom, packed with people, you could have heard a pin drop. it was incredibly powerful. >> would you tell the court what that is, please? >> the defense followed up with a bombshell. >> thorman all but admitted that he wouldn't testify the same way now that he testified back then. >> celestina rossi read thorman's written affidavit aloud in court. >> i will agree that some of the techniques and methodology were incorrect. therefore, some of my testimony was not correct. >> the expert who sent joe to prison for 35 years now says he was wrong. >> and that's a big deal. >> in his affidavit, he says, in no way did i lie in my report or testimony, as i was doing what i thought was correct as a result of my training at the time. >> in reading his trial transcripts, i believe that he
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believed what he was saying was correct. >> defense attorney jessi freud suggested very strongly that dennis dunlap was the killer of mickey bryan and not joe bryan. >> the defense admitted the tape of his ex-wife, who said he'd told her he may have been with mickey the night she was killed. >> i want to say -- i'm not sure -- he dropped her off that night or that evening. >> alternate suspects are important. any other explanation you can give to a jury as to who actually did is something you must do. >> look, it's a big deal that there was another murder four months earlier in this little town in texas. >> i believe that if the clifton police department and the texas rangers all law enforcement system would have arrested dennis dunlap for the murder of
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judy whitley, mickey would still be alive today, and my uncle obviously would not be in jail. >> who do you believe killed your wife? >> dennis dunlap. >> joe's team argued all of this amounted to a wrongful conviction and was grounds for his sentence to be vacated. but the prosecution said the ex-wife's recollection in 1996 is spotty, uncertain, and inaccurate. >> they argued that even without the underwear analysis and blood spatter testimony from robert thorman, there still had been plenty of evidence tying joe bryan to the murder of mickey bryan. they point to what they call joe byran's conflicting stories, other expert testimony from the original trial, and evidence like the blue specs on the flashlight. >> we knew all along that that flashlight was present at the scene of this crime because of those blue chips of astic. >> according to the state, there was more than just blood spatter or even the presence of blood on
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the flashlight tying it to the crime scene. >> no one can eliminate that flashlight as having been present at the scene of this crime. >> the prosecution said, applicant presented no evidence that shows that dennis dunlap is the murderer of mickey bryan. and he is not. >> we've had two juries that have found mr. bryan guilty and have assessed a 99-year punishment in this case. >> i felt like we proved everything that we told the court we were going to prove. >> honestly, i felt like, ahh! the world is getting to see what we've known for 30 something years. >> all of us in our hearts thought that this may be the time that they would release him. >> a former central texas principal convicted of his
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wife's 1986 murder will not get a new trial. >> the judge ended up basically just going with the state. >> the court made the call that the new evidence presented by the defense was not persuasive enough to overturn the conviction. >> we were shocked when the judge ruled, and i cannot begin to explain his rationale or reasoning. >> we were really disappointed, surprised, and confused as to why the result wasn't there. >> it's better to not convict anybody and let a bad guy go, than it is to convict the wrong person. >> on top of all of that, joe is denied parole for a seventh time. penny blue, mickey's sister, still has not wavered in her belief that joe is guilty. >> i want him right where he is. i truly believe he is a very
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dangerous person. >> i thought that was it. i thought he'd spend the rest of his life in prison. >> you never give up hope, and i've never lost hope on this ever. >> nobody was expecting this tear-jerking twist to an over 30-year saga. >> you keep thinking, i hope this is not a joke. when i get a migraine, i shut out the world. but with nurtec odt that's all behind me now. nurtec is the first and only option proven to treat and prevent migraines with one medication. onederful. one quick dissolve tablet can start fast and last.
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lactaid is 100% real milk, just without the lactose. so you can enjoy it even if you're sensitive to dairy. so anyone who says lactaid isn't real milk is also saying mabel here isn't a real cow. and she really hates that. ♪ in the spring of 2020, finally at long last, stunning news for joe bryan after being denied parole seven times, joe bryan was finally released in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. >> why the change of heart from the parole board? his age? covid?
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that's an unknown, but joe's relief was palpable. >> what was it like when you finally left prison, you get off the bus and you see your family members there? >> you fight for something so long. and then you get it and it has such an impact on your life. i was very thankful. >> i wept. i couldn't believe it. i was so happy for joe to get out. >> i don't know that he would have been able to survive much longer in prison. i really don't. >> that's your brother, joe. your own brother. >> joe bryan went into prison middle-aged, and he exited an old man, 79 years old, with congestive heart failure. i was crying.and friends were
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you keep thinking, i hope this is not a joke. hallelujah! thank jesus. pass the biscuits. >> he moved in with his brother and sister-in-law over 200 miles from clifton. >> one of the first things you did when you came out of prison is you went straight to a piano. >> i have a very deep faith. i can go upstairs where the piano is there at the house and play, and i'll play 35 minutes, 40 minutes, and just have a overwhelming peace. >> you even met members of your family that weren't born before you went to prison. >> it was like i had never been
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away. and i'm not a technology person, and my nieces are fantastic in helping me deal with iphones and ipads and zoom. >> it will take some time but you'll get it. >> i know. >> you'll get it. >>. ♪ happy birthday to you ♪ ♪ happy birthday uncle joe ♪ >> you got to celebrate your 80th birthday at your brother's home. tell me what that celebration was like. >> oh gosh. they had balloons and streamers. it was just absolutely great to be there with family. >> the reporter leon smith who championed your case, i know he passed away just this past year. i imagine you still think of him often? >> oh, all the time. and one thing that we both stood up for from the very beginning was the truth. >> there have been limits to joe bryant's freedom. he wore an ankle monitor for over a year.
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>> it stays on 24 hours a day. >> joe bryan hasn't been exonerated. he still a guilty man in our system, and that's the burden he carries. >> you and your lawyer did a podcast about wrongful conviction. >> i'm just deeply honored to have the man himself, joe bryan, with us today on the show. >> part of our problem in america, we're naive about our judicial system and about our police officers and about our courts. our criminal justice system is set up to get a conviction, and someone clapping them on the back and say, good job done. we got him. now he can spend the rest of his life in prison. and they don't care whether you're innocent or you're guilty. if you think it an't happen to you in america, you are wrong. >> what do you want the world to know about you, joe? >> number one, i'm not a killer. i didn't kill mickey. i loved mickey.
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she was -- she was my other self. >> what do you want the world to know about mickey? >> mickey loved life. and she and i were a real good match. i've got a big picture of her in my bedroom, of the two of us together. and sometimes i catch myself talking to the picture. >> what do you tell her? >> i'm ready to see you. i can't wait to see you again. >> i think a just ending to joe's story is to tell the story of who killed his -- his beloved wife mickey, the woman he loved, that would be a great ending. >> i hope to be found actual 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
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mickey's grave and tell her, we know who did it. and that way we can get some peace of mind for mickey, too. so justice is not just for me. it's for her, too. really powerful reporting, amy. as you know, the texas court of criminal appeals deny joe bryan's efforts to get a new trial. >> the supreme court declined to hear his case as well. that is our program for tonight. thank you for watching. >> from all of us here at "20/20" and abc news, good night.
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>> breaking news on the miscalculation that allowed a controlled burn to turn into a
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wildfire that's burning right now. >> san francisco on the verge of a much needed tourism boost? abc7 new

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