Storey and Clark told The Washington Post on Tuesday that they are still adjusting to life outside of prison.
Storey said it took him a while to learn how to use a cellphone, but he had a “new addiction” – caramel lattes.
Clark said he’s open to seeing key cards open doors because he’s seen it on TV, but he’s not used to all the advances in bathroom technology – the self-activating toilets shake the first time. That and the self checkouts at Walmart.
“I’m just an old country boy,” Clark said.
Their cases had fallen dormant until these two podcasters, Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis, on the true-crime series “Proof”, discovered that the two testimonies supporting the cases were entirely false.
Simpson said she knew they had to look into the story if half of what Clark said about wrongful conviction during their initial conversation was true.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the good investigative work of these podcasters,” said Meagan Hurley, who, along with fellow wrongful conviction attorney Christina Cribbs, represented Clark.
Storey and Clark were connected to “Proof” by another prisoner, Joey Watkins, whose case is also being considered by the court system and was chronicled in a podcast.
True crime podcasts are a staple of the medium, and that includes wrongful convictions.
Adnan Syed was released from prison in September after being the subject of the first season of the hugely popular ‘Serial’ podcast eight years ago.
Adnan Syed has been released from prison. What role did “Serial” play?
Crime-solving podcasters have become so believable that Hulu explored a fictionalized version on its popular show, “Only Murders in the Building.”
Podcasting has relatively low overhead compared to other mass storytelling mediums. Producers can go further than television usually does and use the power of audio, unlike print stories.
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“What podcasting can do is bring in a new pair of eyes, or an independent pair of eyes…that can uncover important new evidence and put that evidence into context and make that information available to people who can make a difference through this,” Simpson said.
Every case is different, but Storey and Clark were released a year and a half after “Proof” began reporting. Compare that to the eight years since “Serial” first highlighted Syed’s case.
“It was lightning fast,” Davis said.
Simpson said the quick turnaround was partly because the facts of the case were so obviously twisted.
“We found a case that the world had forgotten,” she said.
Bowling was on the phone with his girlfriend and had just told her he was playing Russian roulette with a gun Storey brought when she heard a single gunshot ring out, according to a Georgia Innocence Project court filing.
Storey was initially charged with manslaughter, but those charges were turned into murder and brought to Clark. This happened, according to the court record, because of the testimony of two witnesses: one who claimed to have seen Clark running in the front yard of the Bowling alley that night and another who said that she had overheard Storey bragging at his party about how he and Clark killed Bowling.
The “evidence” found neither to be true.
The man who testified to seeing Clark running has difficulty hearing and speaking, Simpson said. And it wasn’t until his interview with “Proof” that something tragic became clear: The sign language interpreter in court all those years ago had confused the witness, who thought he was testifying about of another young boy who had been shot.
Then there was the party hostess. She, the podcasters found, said police investigators coerced her into giving compelling testimony against the men under threat that the police would take her children away from her.
Cribbs said it can sometimes be difficult to know whether an action by a law enforcement official or prosecutor was improper and led to a wrongful conviction. In this case? “It’s not a gray area at all,” she said.
Official misconduct plays a role in half of all wrongful convictions in America, according to a study by the National Registry of Exonerations.
When asked if anyone would be punished for the misconduct in this case, Cribbs said: “It’s really unclear, but I hope the actions of the prosecutor’s office in this case in accepting that ‘gross misconduct (has occurred)…sends a message to all the other prosecutors and police out there that this is not acceptable.
Along with the podcast witness findings, Simpson and Davis were also able to show the Bowling family that these two men did not kill Brian. The family ended up demanding his freedom.
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Storey and Clark were so thrilled to have their stories told by the podcast and, as expected, both now find it hard to believe in the criminal justice system.
“It makes me trust podcasters more than politicians,” said Storey, who hopes to start an artificial intelligence business.
Clark said more ethical investigators should have taken longer to look into the case, but he doesn’t hold a grudge.
“It doesn’t do me any good to hate them,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the best man I can be.”
Clark said his short-term plan was to make money cutting trees with his dad, then building airplane parts with his cousin before pursuing his ultimate dream of starting a national hotel franchise for pets.
He said people consider their pets like family and don’t want to leave them in a kennel.
When it was pointed out to him that he wanted to get a creature out of a cage that had done nothing wrong, he agreed, “Hey, I’ve been in a cage. The cage is not good.