Malcolm Bryant dies at 42 after less than a year of freedom

Malcolm and Michele 9-29-16 -- CROP

Malcolm Bryant addresses a UB School of Law symposium on wrongful convictions on Sept. 29, 2016. Professor Michele Nethercott, director of UB’s Innocence Project Clinic, is at right.

Less than a year after he was freed from prison, Malcolm Jabbar Bryant died of a stroke a few weeks shy of his 43rd birthday.

Bryant died March 8, according to a notice from the Beverly D. Cromartie funeral home. Born April 6, 1974, Bryant was buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Baltimore, the notice said.

Bryant, a client of UB Innocence Project Clinic director Michele Nethercott, spent nearly 18 years in prison before his convictions were vacated in May 2016.

He was convicted in 1999 in the murder of Toni Bullock, a 16-year-old girl who was repeatedly stabbed after she was dragged into an empty lot off Harford Road. Though four friends of Bryant’s testified that they’d been with him the night of the murder, the jury believed the sole witness, a friend of Bullock’s, who picked Bryant out of a “six-pack” photo lineup.

Bryant was freed after long-sought DNA tests confirmed what he’d said all along: The state had the wrong man.

The state for years fought the release of the physical evidence that ultimately proved Bryant’s innocence.

“We had a fight every step of the way on the DNA testing,” Nethercott said in the Fall 2016 issue of Baltimore Law magazine. (See the cover below.)

It wasn’t until last spring that a judge ordered DNA testing of the victim’s T-shirt in the area most likely to have come into contact with the attacker; Nethercott suspected the murderer might have been cut on the hilt of the knife as Bullock was stabbed “in a frenzy.”

She was right. The laboratory that tested the spot on the T-shirt found a full male profile consistent with the DNA under the fingernails of the victim, who had tried to fight off her attacker. The DNA profile was not Bryant’s.

Bryant walked out of Baltimore’s Courthouse East a free man on the afternoon of May 11, 2016. (Read Baltimore Sun story here.)

In a television interview that night, Bryant offered hope to other wrongfully convicted prisoners: “Don’t give up. An angel is coming.”

Nethercott described Bryant as one of the kindest, sweetest clients she ever represented, a man who never failed to express his concern for and appreciation of the Innocence Project staff that assisted him.

“He endured so much tragedy throughout his life, including years of incarceration for a murder he did not commit, but he never gave up the fight to prove his innocence and that strengthened my resolve to never give up either despite many setbacks over the years,” Nethercott said. “I will always remember him and I miss him.”

Bryant leaves two sons, his parents and his sisters.

Godspeed, Malcolm.

Baltimore Law (Fall 2016) cover

Click on the image above to read the Fall 2016 issue of Baltimore Law, the magazine of the University of Baltimore School of Law. Malcolm Bryant appeared on the cover with Professor Michele Nethercott (left) and Towanda Luckett, J.D. ’16.

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‘Traumatic’ open parole hearings highlighted in column, letter

Dan Rodricks’s April 26 Baltimore Sun column, “Pain, anger and a plea for parole,” described an open parole hearing for Carleana Kirby, a client of UB’s Juvenile Justice Project.

Kirby was 15 in 1998 when, during a botched robbery of a bar in Southwest Baltimore, she fatally shot server Terry Ambrose. Charged as an adult with felony murder, Kirby was sentenced to life in prison, with all but 50 years suspended.

Rodricks described the scene earlier this week at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup at Kirby’s first parole hearing. Ambrose’s daughter, Crystal Ambrose, gave a “sobbing, trembling, anguished and bitter narrative of her life since the night of Feb. 11, 1998,” Rodricks wrote.

Ambrose clutched a piece of paper with bullet points, including one that said: “You want to get out [of prison] at 35 to start your life? Her life ended at 35.”

She implored the parole commissioners to deny Kirby parole. They did. Kirby is eligible for another hearing in 10 years. The decision cannot be appealed.

In a letter published in The Sun the following day, former Juvenile Justice Project clinical fellow Eve Hanan and current fellow Lila Meadows said Rodricks’s column offered a rare glimpse into the emotionally charged environment of an open parole hearing but “failed to provide the larger context in which these exchanges take place”:

“The Maryland Parole Commission’s procedures for open parole hearings create an environment that is dehumanizing and traumatic for victims and for offenders, who spend decades working to become productive members of society only to learn that parole is rarely granted, especially if the victim opposes release. This works an injustice in many cases, and is likely unconstitutional in cases involving juveniles serving life sentences.”

In open parole hearings, Maryland’s Parole Commission permits statements only from members of the victim’s family. No one is allowed to speak on behalf of the prisoner. (Nor can the prisoner make eye contact with the victim’s relatives.)

Wrote Hanan and Meadows: “Forbidden to speak at the hearing are our clients’ family members, clergy, correctional officers, attorneys and other supporters who can speak to the change they’ve seen over the years as these juvenile lifers have quite literally grown up in prison.”

Hanan and Meadows emphasized that, for prisoners like Kirby, the Maryland Parole Commission is required as a matter of both state and constitutional law “to consider the unique attributes of youth that render adolescents both less culpable and more likely to change into better people over time.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, they said, has “made it clear that we must look beyond the circumstances of the crime when deciding whether a juvenile lifer such as Ms. Kirby deserves a second chance.”

“The parole commission must look beyond the pain and anger that are ever-present in many open hearings to make a deeper, legally mandated inquiry into the change our clients have undergone after decades of incarceration.”

Learn more about the Juvenile Justice Project.

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Zina Makar is recognized as Public Interest Lawyer of the Year

Zina Makar profile photo

Zina Makar, co-director of the Pretrial Justice Clinic

Zina Makar, clinical fellow and co-director of the Pretrial Justice Clinic, has been named the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the Bar Association of Baltimore City. (See news release here.)

In a message to UB law faculty and staff, Professor Colin Starger, Makar’s colleague in the Pretrial Justice Clinic, said Makar had played a critical role in advancing the cause of bail reform in Maryland this year.

“Her tireless and brilliant work in pursuit of pretrial justice inspires our students and energizes everyone in the community fighting for reform,” Starger said.

Makar, the 12th recipient of the award, will be honored at the Bar Association’s annual reception, to be held May 8 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Mitchell Courthouse (100 N. Calvert St.). Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh will be the guest speaker.

To RSVP for the event, write or call 410-539-5936.

Learn more about Makar and the Pretrial Justice Clinic.

Read “Bail Reform Begins with the Bench,” an op-ed by Makar in The New York Times (Nov. 17, 2016).

Congratulations, Zina!

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Grossman to assess nominees to Inter-American rights body

Professor Nienke Grossman

Professor Nienke Grossman

Professor Nienke Grossman, deputy director of UB’s Center for International and Comparative Law, been named to an independent panel that will assess six nominees competing for three positions on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The Inter-American Commission, established in 1959, is charged with monitoring human rights across the Americas.

The five-member panel is made up of jurists and academics from the human rights community. In addition to Grossman, the panel members are Miguel Sarre, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México; Miguel Gutiérrez Saxe, Programa Estado de la Nación, Costa Rica; Cecilia Medina Quiroga, lawyer, academic and former member of the panel, Chile; and Elizabeth Salmón Garate, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Read a press release from the Center for Justice and International Law.

Learn more about Professor Grossman.

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C.J. Peters named dean of University of Akron School of Law

UB 3-3248_Peters

Christopher (C.J.) Peters

Associate Dean Christopher J. (C.J.) Peters has been selected as the next dean of the University of Akron School of Law. The Ohio university announced in a news release Wednesday that its board of trustees had approved the appointment and that Peters would begin his new job on June 15, 2017.

University of Akron President Matthew J. Wilson said in the release that Peters had the background and vision to be an exemplary leader of the Akron law school.

Peters said he was eager to capitalize on Akron’s strengths to solidify its reputation as one of the best law schools in Ohio and as a top-100 law school nationally.

Peters graduated cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was associate editor of the Michigan Law Review in his final year. He earned his B.A. summa cum laude in history from Amherst College.

A professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law since 2009, Peters was appointed associate dean for faculty scholarship in 2015.

Before joining UB’s faculty, Peters taught for two years as a Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School and for 12 years at Wayne State University in Detroit. He also taught as a visitor at the law schools of the University of Michigan, Loyola Los Angeles and the University of Toledo. At Wayne State, Peters received the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Donald H. Gordon Award for Teaching Excellence and three Teacher of the Year awards.

Peters has been published widely. He is the author of A Matter of Dispute: Morality, Democracy, and Law (Oxford University Press, 2011) and has edited, written or co-written several other works. His writings have been published in law reviews at schools including Harvard, Columbia, Yale, UCLA, Oklahoma, BYU and Northwestern.

Read Peters’s CV here.

Peters has established the Judge Donald T. Anderson Endowed Scholarship for the benefit of Akron law students and in honor of his late grandfather, a longtime Michigan trial judge. Peters said he hoped its recipients would be inspired, as he has been, by Judge Ander­son’s lifelong dedication to public service and concern for the practical impact of the law, particularly on society’s most vulnerable members.

Congratulations, C.J. — we will miss you!

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Monday: Author to discuss new book, ‘Locking Up Our Own’

Locking Up Our Own -- book coverYale law professor and author James Forman Jr. will discuss his new book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, on Monday evening at UB’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center.

Monday, April 17, 2017
7-9 p.m.
Moot Courtroom (0 level)
John and Frances Angelos Law Center
1401 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21201

Forman will discuss the book with University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Ronald Weich, U.S. Court of Appeals Senior Judge Andre M. Davis and UB law Professor Odeana Neal.

Read two recent New York Times reviews of the book: “‘Locking Up Our Own,’ What Led to Mass Incarceration of Black Men” (April 11) and “Power and Punishment” (April 14) .

The event is sponsored by the UB School of Law and OSI-Baltimore (the Open Society Institute). It is part of OSI’s “Talking About Race” series. Learn more here.

Click here or on the image above to RSVP.

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Thursday: A discussion about the definition of sex trafficking

Human sex trafficking event 4-2017Click here or on the image above to RSVP for the Journal of International Law‘s discussion about efforts to expand the definition of sex trafficking in Maryland.

Thursday, April 13, 2017
6 to 9 p.m.
12th floor
John and Frances Angelos Law Center
1401 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21201

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