Robert R. Bryan
Robert R. Bryan has specialized in death-penalty litigation for three decades and is lead counsel in various murder cases pending at the federal and state level. He is a member of the bar of California, New York, United States Supreme Court, various federal courts, and was elected a Fellow in the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. Also, he serves on the Steering Committee, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Paris, is active in the National Lawyers Guild, New York, and formerly served as Chair of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Washington, D.C.
In 2003 Mr. Bryan became lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African-American journalist who is Pennsylvaniaâ€™s death row. They began corresponding nearly two decades ago, but Mr. Bryan was unable to take the case at that time due to other capital-case commitments.
Nr. Bryan has defended many other people against whom the death penalty was sought with the first being an acquittal in the Ammons case in BirmingÂham, Alabama when the lawyer was just 26. He represented Jerry D. Bigelow who had spent years on Californiaâ€™s death row before being granted a new trial. Even though the evidence included the client’s 10 confessions to an execution-style murder, a Monterey County jury returned a non-guilty verdict. Another client was Larry Layton, the only person ever charged in the Peoples Temple case which concerned the death of CongressÂman Leo Ryan and over 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana, at the direcÂtion of Rev. Jim Jones. Mr. Bryan also defended Buddy Cochran who attacked the leadership of the Klu Klux Klan at their national convention in Plains, Georgia, near the home of the then President Jimmy Carter.
For 15 years Mr. Bryan represented Anna Hauptmann, who died at the age of 95 in 1994 in Pennsylvania. She was the widow of Richard HauptÂmann, a German immigrant who was executed in 1936 in New Jersey for the kidnap-murder of Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr. The attorney uncovered eviÂdence from government files establishing that the authoriÂties knowingly prosecuted an innocent person and that the Trial of the Century was the greatest fraud in US legal history. He pursued litigation in New Jersey against the FBI and those who prosecuted the case in an effort to officially right the wrong. His findings are the subject of The Airman and The Carpenter by Ludovic Kennedy (Viking, Penguin), various other books, documentaries, and a movie. A section of MurÂders Die by Denis Brian (St. Martin’s Press) is an interview with the attorney on the Hauptmann case and the death penalty. Mr. Bryan is intermittently working on a book concerning the case.
Mr. Bryan has also been counsel to members of the American Indian Movement. He won a dismissal of all murder charges again Jimmy Eagle, who was indicted for the June 26, 1975 killing of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota (Leonard Peltier, represented by others, was later convicted). Mr. Bryan represented federally Gladys Bissonette, who was actively involved in the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. He was also the attorney for the Menominee Warrior Society during its 1975 armed occupation of the abandoned Alexian Brothersâ€™ Novitiate near Gresham, Wisconsin. He successfully demanded that the 65-room mansion, other buildings and its acreage be returned to the Native Americans who had lived on the land long before the white man arrived.
Often Mr. Bryan speaks on the death penalty and other human-rights issues both in the U.S. and Europe. In 2007 he addressed the erd World Congress Against the Death Penalty, Paris. Since 1994 he has been doing legal commentaries for ABC News, San Francisco, and appears on other news outlets.
Mr. Bryan has written articles on the death penalty and human rights, e.g., Taking A Stand, Verdict (Jan. 1998); What Price Justice?, Parliamentary Review (England, Oct. 1997); Waco: Inferno of Rights, San Francisco Attorney (S.F. Bar Assoc., Sept., 1993), Death Penalty Trials: The InnoÂcence of Jerry Bigelow and Defense CreativÂity, Champion (National Assoc. of Crim. Defenders Law., Dec. 1993), Death Penalty Trials: Lawyers Need Help, Forum (Calif. Attys. for Crim. Justice, May-June, 1989), Champion (Aug., 1988); In Trial By Fury: The Lindbergh Case, SF Examiner (Apr. 3, 1996), he discussed the wrongfulness of the death penalty on the 60th anniversary of the execution of Richard Hauptmann in New Jersey for the Lindbergh kidnap-murder. A longer version of the article appears in the book Frontiers of Justice, Volume 1: The Death Penalty (Biddle). He demonÂstrated that innocent people are unavoidably put to death in any capital punishment system regardÂless of precauÂtions to ensure fairness, in The Execution of the Innocent: The Tragedy of the Hauptmann-Lindbergh and Bigelow Cases, 18 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 831 (1991). Dedicated Defender, Verdict (July 1998) also contains an interview with the attorney.
A chapter entitled “The Defender” in the book A Punishment In Search Of A Crime by Ian Gray and Moira Stanley (Avon Press) describes Mr. Bryan’s work in fighting capital punishment. His work is featured in Modern Trials by Melvin Belli (West). The lawyer has appeared as an expert witness regarding the minimum stanÂdards of attorney compeÂtence in capital cases.
The activities and memberships of Mr. Bryan have included: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Steering Committee, Paris; National Lawyers Guild, NY; National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Chair and Board (1985-95), Washington; Chopin Foundation, Board (2004-present); Amnesty International; ACLU; National Coalition Concerned Legal Prof., Board (2000-present); LycÃ©e FranÂÂÃ§ais La PÃ©rouse, Board (1997-98); No. Calif. Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Board and Chair (1985-92); NY State Defenders Assn.; NY State Assn. of Crim. Defenders Lawyers; Amer. Indians and the Death Penalty, Adv. Council (1985-92); Intâ€™l Soc’ty for Prof. Hyp., Legal Adv. Board; Criminal Trial Law. Assn.; NAACP; Intâ€™l Churchill Soc’ty; Glenn Gould Foundation.
Mr. Bryan is married to Nicole, a French citizen who is actively working on behalf of death-row clients. They live in San Francisco, but also spend time at the family home in France. Their daughter, Auda Mai, is a classical pianist and attends Rugby School, England.
Law Offices of Robert R. Bryan
2088 Union Street, Suite 4
San Francisco, California 94123-4117