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Dan Bright

State: Louisiana

Convicted: 1996

Exonerated: 2004

Race: Black

DNA used in exoneration? No

 

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

Mistaken identification

Official misconduct

Inadequate legal defense

Dan's Wrongful Conviction

 

Dan Bright was wrongfully convicted at age 26 of the murder of Murray Barnes. He spent nine years in prison, four of which were on death row, before his conviction was overturned.

 

Dan was initially represented by a lawyer who did not investigate the case and was drunk during his trial. At the same time, the State withheld FBI documents that named the real killer and evidence that undermined the credibility of the State’s primary witness. Dan’s sentence was later commuted to life, at which time he made requests to have the identity of the true killer released through the Freedom of Information Act. Citing the real killer's right to privacy, the federal government declined to reveal his name.

 

Shortly after the Innocence Project of New Orleans signed on to the case with Dan’s new counsel from the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, a federal district court judge ruled he had the right to know the identity of the true killer. The Louisiana Supreme Court then reversed Dan’s conviction in 2004.

 

When Dan was released from prison in June 2004, among the most relieved was the late Kathleen Hawk Norman, the foreperson of the jury that had sentenced him to death. She had become one of his strongest advocates after learning that exculpatory evidence had been withheld from the jury. She also became one of his closest friends after his release.

 

Dan's Work Today

 

Dan was one of the original voices in the Louisiana exoneree theater production, Voices of Innocence. He lives in New Orleans and is actively involved in Resurrection After Exoneration and Witness to Innocence.

 

Publications:

 

The Story of Dan Bright: Crime, Corruption, and Injustice in the Crescent City

  • Published with author Justin Noble

  • "This incredible true story unflinchingly shows the injustice of the legal system, as well as the base corruption on display at Angola prison.

 

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