Two Georgia men who spent 25 years in prison were released last week after their murder convictions were overturned when podcasters and their lawyers uncovered new evidence proving their innocence.
Darrell Lee Clark and Cain Joshua Storey were teenagers when they stood trial in January 1998 for the shooting death of their friend Brian Bowling, 15, at a party in 1996, according to a statement from the non-profit organization lucrative Georgia Innocence Project also known as GIP County Police.Floyd initially believed Storey’s account of the shooting that he was in the room with Bowling when he died in a accident while playing Russian roulette. Moments before the fatal shooting, Bowling was on the phone with his girlfriend and told her he was playing Russian roulette with a gun brought by his best friend, Storey, the GIP said.
Storey was initially charged with manslaughter for supplying the gun to his best friend, according to the Innocence Project.
However, after insistence from the distraught Bowling family, the GIP said that within days of speaking to a party host, police turned Storey’s charge to murder and also connected Clark to the case by as a co-accused, despite the fact that he had a corroborated alibi. .
State prosecutors argued the two teens conspired to kill Bowling in an act of revenge, the GIP said.
“You never think something like this is going to happen to you,” Clark said in the statement. “I never thought I would spend more than half my life in prison, especially for something I didn’t do. I’m just glad the truth is finally coming out after 25 years. I am so grateful to the Georgia Innocence Project and Proof Podcast for what they have done. Without them, I would still be in prison.
Clark and Storey were released from jail on Thursday after motions were filed on their behalf for a new trial, their attorneys said. The Rome Judicial District Attorney’s Office agreed that Clark’s conviction should be overturned and dismissed all charges against Clark, exonerating him from Bowling’s death, the GIP said.
“We’re thrilled, thrilled that he’s finally home after all this time. It’s even better that it’s in time for the holidays,” Clark’s attorney, Meagan Hurley, told NBC News. Twenty-five years is an incredibly long time to spend in prison for a crime you didn’t commit.”
Hurley credited the Bowlings with ultimately having a change of heart over the death of their loved one.
“They entered this process with an open mind. They were ready to listen to what podcasters had to say, and ultimately, lawyers,” Hurley said. “And kind of reassessed what the evidence really was and came to the conclusion that, frankly, the first time around, everyone got it wrong.
A motion has been filed for Storey arguing he is innocent, his attorney, Luke Martin, told NBC News on Monday.
Storey pleaded guilty to manslaughter and a 10-year prison sentence, Martin said. But because it was his first offense, Martin’s conviction was immediately expunged from the record, Martin said.
“He likes to recover from the life he missed,” Martin said. “He feels vindicated. He says he is innocent. He’s telling everyone the truth about what’s been going on for 25 years.
The state’s case against Clark and Storey rested largely on two key witnesses, according to the GIP. Podcasters Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis, behind the “Proof” podcast, began interviewing witnesses related to the case in late 2021.
Podcasters could not immediately be reached on Monday.
Their investigation revealed that the hostess of the party, a key witness, had been coerced by police into giving false testimony about statements Clark and Storey allegedly made. Podcasters also discovered that a hearing-impaired man, who was also a key witness, saw an unrelated but factually similar shooting in 1976 and was unable to separate the facts of that case from Bowling’s death in 1996, according to GIP. . It was learned that the hearing-impaired man had never seen Clark running in Bowling’s yard when Bowling was shot, which was the prosecution’s theory.
Martin said that for some reason the police at the time were not interested in learning the truth about Bowling’s death.
“An autopsy in the case would have solved the problem, but they refused to get an autopsy,” Martin said. “This autopsy would have shown that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
According to the GIP, to support its theory of intentional homicide, the public prosecutors relied on the testimony of the coroner, who had no medical training.
The coroner testified that his “hunch” told him that the gunshot wound could not have been self-inflicted as it was not a close contact injury, according to the IPTF.
No one from the Floyd County Police Department could be immediately reached for comment Monday.
Madelyn Urabe contributed.