DNA evidence frees man falsely convicted of brutal child murders

In November 1985, Bryan Halsey was convicted of murdering two children. It was a horrible crime involving sexual assault and mutilation.

In November 1985, Bryan Halsey was convicted of murdering two children. It was a horrible crime involving sexual assault and mutilation. Today, thanks to DNA testing, Halsey is a free man. The Star Ledger reports that a Superior Court judge tossed out Halsey's conviction and ordered a new trial after advanced DNA testing showed that the killings might have been carried out by a Plainfield neighbor.

Byron Halsey, the boyfriend of the children's mother, was tried and convicted in a high-profile investigation. Halsey confessed to the murders after failing a polygraph test. Halsey later retracted his confession, was released on $55,000 bail yesterday afternoon. He is currently waiting on a decision by prosecutors on whether it will proceed with a retrial or drop the case.

"It has taken more than two decades, but DNA has finally revealed the truth in this case," said Vanessa Potkin, a lawyer with the Innocence Project, a group that works on behalf of inmates whom it considers wrongfully convicted.

If Halsey is exonerated, he will be the fifth New Jerseyan and 202nd person across the country to be exonerated through the use of DNA evidence, according to the group, which is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.

Among the corrected evidence, according to Innocence Project:

  • Semen on the seven-year-old girl’s underwear (which was stuffed into her mouth during the rape and murder); the prosecution said during the trial that the semen came from someone with the same blood type as Halsey, but DNA testing now shows that the semen was from Cliff Hall.
  • Semen at the crime scene, which was also matched to Halsey’s blood type but is actually from Cliff Hall, DNA shows.
  • A cigarette butt found at the crime scene, which was central to the initial police investigation of the crimes. DNA testing shows that the cigarette butt was Cliff Hall’s.