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, where he spent nearly 18 years for a murder he did not commit, 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, proclaimed his innocence for nearly two decades 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 being dragged into an empty lot off Harford Road. Though four friends of Bryant’s testified they’d been with him elsewhere the night of the murder, the jury believed the sole witness, a friend of Bullock’s, who picked out Bryant from a “six-pack” photo lineup.

Bryant was freed after long-sought DNA tests confirmed what he’d insisted 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 murderer; Nethercott suspected the attacker 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 appears on the cover with Professor Michele Nethercott (left) and Towanda Luckett, J.D. ’16.

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