CALDWELL — Monday’s testimony was the third time Bryan Lankford claimed that he alone killed two people 36 years ago in Idaho County. On Monday and again in his testimony Tuesday, he claimed that law enforcement coached his testimony years earlier.
The Lankford brothers were both previously convicted of the 1983 Idaho County killings. Mark Lankford, the older of the brothers, has successfully appealed his conviction twice, and is now standing trial a third time, with the Canyon County Courthouse as the venue. Juries originally convicted the Lankford brothers in 1984 of the robbery and murder of a Texas couple, U.S. Marine Capt. Robert Bravence, 28, and his wife, Cheryl, 25.
“I said whatever I was advised to say,” Bryan Lankford said various times throughout Tuesday’s proceedings. He claimed law enforcement had coerced him or that prosecutors had paid him to testify against his brother.
While he has three times claimed to be the sole killer, such as his Monday testimony, the details vary with each telling. Canyon County Prosecutor Doug Robertson spent the entire morning Tuesday going through each testimony and a handwritten letter Bryan Lankford had allegedly written over the past few years depicting what had happened that night in 1983. He read testimony that Bryan Lankford reportedly gave in the past about Mark Lankford being present at the murders.
Robertson pointed out three instances that Bryan Lankford has altered the details.
In the ’80s, for example, a shotgun was not included in testimony. But on Monday, Bryan Lankford said he first hit Robert Bravence in the head with the butt of a shotgun.
Robertson brought up a letter that Bryan Lankford allegedly wrote four days after speaking to a Lewiston Tribune reporter. The letter stated that he had done something “really stupid” and that he wouldn’t let his brother get to him again. Also, at one point in the ’80s, Bryan Lankford said he knew his brother would try to get to him or kill him if he knew he was going to say anything.
But Bryan Lankford did not recall making those statements, he said Tuesday. He said he was not scared of his brother or ever coerced by him.
Robertson asked Bryan Lankford if he thought his testimony Monday was vastly different than what he said to the reporter in 1984 or at his 1986 hearing.
“It’s a matter of opinion. ... But the main thing was not different. ... The main part of the story is I killed them,” Bryan Lankford said.
The examination became heated occasionally, as tension could be felt between Robertson and Bryan Lankford, who would make comments about prosecution leaving out context. Toward the end, Bryan Lankford frequently talked over Robertson.
“The truth is, Mr. Lankford, your worst fear in life is not to spend the rest of your life in prison,” Robertson said. “Your worst fear is to spend the rest of your life in prison with your brother.”
“That’s just stupidity,” Bryan Lankford replied.
Mark Lankford’s trial is set to last as long as three weeks.