A Bronx judge vacated David Bryant’s conviction on Thursday and ordered his release after ruling that Bryant’s lawyer provided inadequate defense, reports The New York Times. Bryant was convicted of the 1975 rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl.
Bryant, who had two prior arrests for sexual misconduct, was picked up by police within a day of the crime and confessed to the murder. He maintains that his confession was coerced after a lengthy interrogation where he was physically assaulted.
Thursday’s ruling by Justice Seth L. Marvin of State Supreme Court did not reach any conclusion about Bryant’s guilt, but instead focused on whether the failure of his attorney to consult with an expert on blood and semen testing was a critical mistake.
“This error falls within the category of rare cases where a single error in an otherwise competent defense is so egregious and prejudicial that it deprived defendant of a fair trial,” Justice Marvin wrote.
“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,” Justice Marvin said.
Bryant’s original defense attorney testified that he did not remember details of the case because he was working 75 criminal cases at the time. His new attorney, Paul Casteleiro, sought DNA evidence that could help clear Bryant but most of it could not be located. Casteleiro did find an autopsy report that outlined the evidence related to blood testing. Bryant has type-B blood and according to the report, the blood recovered from the scene was not type B. Castelerio argued there is no physical evidence connecting Bryant to the crime.
The district attorney must now decide whether to appeal, retry him or dismiss the case.