David Bryant was released from a New York prison Wednesday after a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with a senior United States District Court judge’s analysis that “credible and compelling” evidence showed that he was innocent.
Bryant spent a total of 42 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He previously was released, but then more than a year later, the district attorney’s office appealed the decision and won. Bryant, who had built a life for himself in Princeton after his release, was sent back to prison, where he waited for his case to be overturned again for the last four years.
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office could still decide to retry Bryant. He will be back in court on Sept. 18. Bryant is now living in Philadelphia.
Centurion, the Princeton-based nonprofit that works to free innocent people from prison, worked on Bryant’s original case and fought for his freedom again after he was sent back to prison. Centurion found new evidence to prove Bryant did not rape and murder an 8-year-old Bronx girl in 1974.
Last August, U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet of the Southern District of New York ordered Bryant’s release unless the Bronx District Attorney called for a new trial. The judge found that new serological evidence produced by Centurion indicated that a semen sample recovered from the victim could not have been Bryant’s semen. The judge also found that the defense attorney’s failures to investigate and discover the evidence likely affected the outcome of the original trial. “It is more probable than not that reasonable, properly instructed jurors would not believe him to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Sweet said.
Bryant was sentenced to 25 years to life. Some have questioned why he was never paroled. Bryant went before a parole board seven times, and each time he was rejected.
“A prisoner has to admit guilt and show remorse to be considered for parole,” Bryant told Planet Princeton in July of 2014. “I’m not going to admit to something I did not do.”