New York City Council
Committee on Public Safety
February 26, 2024

Testimony of Bruce Bryan – Client Advocate – Queens Defenders

Good morning, Chairperson Salaam, and members of the Committee on Public Safety. My name is Bruce Bryan, and I am a Client Advocate for Queens Defenders.  Prior to this role, I was wrongfully convicted and served over 29 years in prison.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. Before I begin, I wish to commend the New York City Council for overriding Mayor Adams’ Veto on the How Many Stops Act.  Your leadership on this issue is an important step toward protecting our city’s marginalized communities from over-policing and abuse by law enforcement authorities.


I am here today to offer my story as an example of how nefarious tactics in police investigations do not serve public safety – they only create wrongful convictions and an adverse relationship between the police and the community.  The Innocence Project notes that: “Black people account for 40% of the approximately 2.3 million incarcerated people in the U.S and nearly 50% of exonerees – despite making up just 13% of the US population. This is in large part, because they are policed more heavily, often presumed guilty, and frequently denied a fair shot at justice.”


My story and wrongful incarceration for nearly 30 years echoes these statistics.  My life could have – and should have – had a different outcome and I am calling on the New York City Council to take action to prevent the practice of NYPD officers being given carte blanche to lie; to manipulate; and deceive people who they are interviewing.


When I was 23 years old, I was arrested and charged with a murder that I did not commit. There were multiple things that the NYPD did during that arrest and investigation that contributed to my wrongful conviction.


When I was arrested, I was represented by counsel who specifically invoked my 6th Amendment rights. Despite this, I was still placed in an in-person lineup without my attorney being notified or present to protect my rights. As a result of that lineup, I was misidentified as the perpetrator and charged, beginning a 29-year nightmare that finally ended when I received clemency in 2022.


In my case, the death of a young person occurred because of a drug related shootout. This involved multiple parties firing numerous shots. I was not one of the shooters and I never possessed a gun that day. Despite this, the NYPD only collected two (2) shell casing that were used to incriminate me. There is no doubt in my mind that this was an intentional and selective act by the investigators who were intent on pinning this crime on me.


Further, one of the people who identified me had an extensive criminal background. He was compensated by the NYPD to make the identification. He was never a credible or reliable witness in my case. In fact, he had a strong motivation to please law enforcement by telling them what they wanted to hear.


Now that I have had this experience, I am horrified to see so many other young black and brown people having their rights violated during police investigations, and tragically and irrevocably interrupted through wrongful incarceration. On the State level, we are seeing momentum with the Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act and the Right 2 Silence Act which guarantees legal counsel to juveniles.  Here in New York City, we can and must enact meaningful legislation to ensure that another life is not lost to a wrongful conviction and protect the rights and lives of Black and Brown residents who are so often the victims of deceitful and nefarious police tactics.


Today, I am working as a Client Advocate at Queens Defenders leading innovative youth programming for our young court-involved clients that helps them make better life decisions and pursue meaningful and engaging educational and career goals.  We also work to ensure that young people are made aware of their rights under the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments and understand how to have safe interactions with the police. Programs like ours can only achieve so much without legislative action that provides police accountability and protects against the absolute injustice of incarceration for a wrongful conviction.  I can only hope that we can collectively work together to protect the next generation and to make our system fair for everyone.


Bruce Bryan
Client Advocate
Queens Defenders