David Bryant spent forty years in prison for the 1975 rape and murder of eight-year-old Karen Smith.
David Bryant, who was eighteen-years-old at the time, was picked up the day after Smith’s murder. Bryant had been in trouble with the law and had two previous sexual misconduct charges. Bryant confessed to the crime after twelve hours of interrogation that included physical abuse.
After years of trying to prove his innocence, Bryant now has a new lawyer who has been seeking to have his client’s conviction overturned. Paul Casteleiro, who has represented Bryant since 2008, noted the following problems with Bryant’s conviction:
- Bryant’s confession was coerced
- Bryant’s previous sexual misconduct charges were filed by the father of Bryant’s girlfriend who disapproved of the relationship
- Bryant’s blood type did not match that recovered from the crime scene or that obtained in Smith’s autopsy
Mr. Casteleiro argued before the court there is no physical evidence connecting his client to the crime. The district attorney must now decide whether to appeal, retry him or dismiss the case. The New York Times reports that on April 11, a Bronx judge vacated Bryant’s conviction on the grounds Bryant’s lawyer at the time of his trial provided a poor defense. Justice Seth Marvin stated the defense lawyer made a critical mistake when he failed to have Bryant’s blood type determined.
“His failure to have the defendant’s blood type determined or consult with a serologist was not part of a legitimate strategy; it was the result of neglect and ignorance,” said Justice Marvin.
The finding by Justice Marvin did not reach any conclusion on whether or not Bryant is guilty of murdering Karen Smith. It did, however, make Bryant a free man, as he was released from custody that afternoon.
It will be up to the district attorney to make the decision to either appeal, retry or dismiss the case against David Bryant.