Two Georgia men who were given life sentences for the 1996 murder of a friend were released last week after evidence of police misconduct in their cases was uncovered, their attorneys said.
Cain Joshua Storey and Darrell Lee Clark, both then 17 years old, were accused by lawyers representing the Bowling family of murder in the 1996 shooting death of 15-year-old Brian Bowling in the bedroom of his mobile home in Floyd County, Georgia.
According to the attorneys, shortly before Bowling’s death, he had called his girlfriend to tell her that he had brought a gun into the house and was playing Russian roulette with it. The gun had been brought to the house by Storey.
However, according to court documents, prosecutors at Clark and Storey’s 1998 trial argued that the two had conspired to kill Bowling after he told police that Clark and Storey had stolen a safe containing $3,200.
According to the papers, a jury found Clark and Storey guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They were both given life sentences with the possibility of parole.
In interviews this week, the men said that if Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis hadn’t investigated their case in the 17-episode podcast Proof, they would still be in prison.
Lawyers for Simpson and Davis claim their clients discovered evidence that police coerced a key state witness and exploited a third witness with speech and hearing impairments.
A judge granted the men a new trial on Thursday after hearing arguments in support of their motions, which the lawyers say were bolstered by the evidence presented in the case. Murder charges against Clark were subsequently dropped, according to his attorneys.
Storey brought the gun to Bowling’s house, and he was charged with murder, but he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain. According to his lawyer, Luke Martin, he was given a 10-year sentence, all of which has been served.
Who Was Responsible?
According to a press release from the Georgia Innocence Project, just before the gun went off, Bowling had been talking to his girlfriend on the phone and told her he was playing Russian roulette with a gun that Storey had brought to Bowling’s house.
Storey was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter, but months later, police reopened the case as a homicide and interviewed two witnesses whose testimony implicated Clark in Bowling’s death, according to the Georgia Innocence Project.
Lawyers for Clark have filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that “despite the circumstances, which strongly indicated that Bowling accidentally shot himself in the head,” police later began investigating the death as a homicide at the urging of Bowling’s family members.
The In-Depth Podcast Reveals Fresh Proof
After investigating Clark’s case for their true-crime podcast Proof in 2021 and interviewing two of the state’s key witnesses, podcasters Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis finally managed to get Clark exonerated a year and a half later.
The podcasters discovered new information that “shattered the state’s theory of Clark’s involvement” in Bowling’s death, and they brought his case to the attention of the Georgia Innocence Project.
Police interviewed a woman who lived in close proximity to Bowling’s house, and she reportedly told them that the teens admitted to plotting Bowling’s murder because he knew too much about a theft Storey and Clark had committed in the past, as reported by the Georgia Innocence Project.
Clark’s motion for a new trial claims that he was wrongfully arrested as a co-conspirator after police relied on her testimony to charge Storey with murder. Clark’s alibi, in which he claims to have been at home on the night of the shooting, is supported by two witnesses.
According to the Georgia Innocence Project, the woman in the podcast claimed police threatened to take her children away if she did not give false statements.
According to the Georgia Innocence Project, the podcast revealed that the witness’s testimony was based on an “unrelated, factually similar shooting” he saw in 1976 and that he never once identified Clark as the individual in the yard or saw anyone in the yard on the night in question.
Davis said in an interview with CNN that she and Simpson initially didn’t expect their investigation to lead anywhere, but as they spoke to more people, it became “clear that it just wasn’t adding up.”
Clark And Storey Make An Effort To Start Over
A new look at the evidence led to the Rome Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office and Floyd County Superior Court Judge John Neidrach agreeing that Clark, now 43, should have his conviction overturned and all underlying charges dismissed. Clark was released from the Floyd County Jail on Thursday.
Storey, who admitted bringing the gun to Bowling’s house, was also released after accepting a plea deal for involuntary manslaughter and a 10-year sentence with time served. He had previously spent 25 years in prison. The murder charges against him were dropped as well.
For fear of waking up the next day and “realising it was all a dream,” Storey said in an interview with CNN that he didn’t sleep the first night after his release.
“It’s been surreal, to say the least,” he continued. I think it’s going to turn out really well. Slowly but surely. I never let myself become mentally imprisoned during those many years.
For his part, Lee Clark said, “You never think something like that is going to happen to you,” in a statement issued by the Georgia Innocence Project. A lifetime behind bars, especially for an unjust cause, was something I never expected to face.
In an interview with CNN, Clark’s father, Glen, said, “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time. 25 years. I always knew my son had been wrongfully accused. It’s really tough for me to accept that.
“I saw my son go to prison when he was a kid, I saw him go through the prison, and I saw him come out when he was an adult. In prison, he matured into a man,” he said.
Judge Neidrach’s apology on behalf of Georgia and Floyd County, as reported by Clark, during a court hearing earlier this week was a positive step in the right direction, he said.
That meant a lot to me because I had been living in corruption for so long,” he told CNN.
In addition to the efforts of the Georgia Innocence Project to aid Clark in his transition and provide him with resources, Hurley has announced that a personal fundraising campaign for Clark and his family has been set up on the crowdfunding site MightyCause.
Clark, Storey’s defence team, and the Bowling family worked together to secure the men’s acquittals by taking a “objective look at this case” and “reevaluating some of the things they have been told in the past,” as Hurley put it.
Davis, who was present at the hearing for Clark and Storey this week, said she is “still in shock” and feels a great deal of relief for both men.
In the end, my heart goes out to Brian Bowling’s family, who have been nothing but gracious and supportive throughout this entire ordeal. Davis remarked, “It’s extremely unusual for the family of the victim to advocate for the acquittal of the defendants.