Meet the Exonerees

Jimmy Ray Bromgard

State: Montana
Date of Birth: 1969
Incident Date: 03/20/1987
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 11/19/1987
Age When Exonerated: 32
Exonerated Date: 10/01/2002
Time Served: 15
Conviction: Three Counts of Rape
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: Yes

Case Details

After completing fifteen years of his forty-year prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit, Jimmy Ray Bromgard was exonerated due to DNA evidence in 2002. At the age of seventeen, Bromgard became a suspect for the three-count rape of an eight-year-old girl in Billings, Montana. The victim chose Bromgard out of a police lineup, claiming she was “60-65% confident” that he was her rapist. She repeatedly mentioned that she was unsure about this choice throughout the trial. Former manager of Montana’s state crime lab Arnold Melnikoff, who analyzed hair samples without DNA verification, falsely claimed in court that there was a one in ten thousand chance that the hair found at the crime scene was not that of Bromgard. Bromgard’s state-assigned attorney failed to argue against this claim, or against the victim’s shaky testimony, which had a significant impact on Bromgard’s wrongful conviction. Despite suffering multiple attacks by his prison mates, he managed to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma, and learned to cope with his frustration. After years of undue incarceration, a DNA test of the hair found in the victim's bed excluded Bromgard as the perpetrator. After his release, Bromgard said, “I don’t think I’ll ever have faith in the system again.”