Two Georgia men wrongfully convicted of murder seen for first time since walking free 25 years later

Two Georgia men wrongfully convicted of murder seen for first time since walking free 25 years later

For the first time in more than 25 years, Georgia men Darrell Lee Clark and Cain Joshua Storey will be home for Christmas, thanks to a true-crime podcast that uncovered their wrongful convictions for murder, and attorneys from the Georgia Innocence Project.

Clark and Storey walked out of the Floyd County jail as free men Thursday after the Rome Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office agreed that their convictions in the 1996 shooting death of a friend should be overturned. They were embraced by their families and friends, who were filled with tears.

” You never think that something like this is going to happen,” Lee Clark stated in a statement. “I never would have imagined that I would spend more time in prison than half of my life, especially for something I did not do. I’m just glad the truth finally came to light after 25 years. I am so grateful for the Georgia Innocence Project’s and Proof Podcast’s efforts. Without them, I would still have been in prison. “

Attorneys with the Georgia Innocence Project said Clark’s exoneration was obtained after they filed new evidence of police misconduct in the law enforcement investigation of 15-year-old Brian Bowling’s death in 1996.

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Lee Clark, left, and Joseph Storey, right, were released from prison Thursday after serving 25 years for a murder they did not commit. Their release was secured after Proof podcast uncovered new evidence in their case.

Lee Clark, left, and Joseph Storey, right, were released from prison Thursday after serving 25 years for a murder they did not commit. After Proof podcast revealed new evidence in their case, their release was secured.
(Courtesy of Fox 5 Atlanta)

On Oct. 18, 1996, Bowling was hanging out with his best friend, Cain Joshua Storey, in his parent’s trailer home. When he called his girlfriend, he said that they were playing Russian Roulette using a gun Storey had brought over. The dangerous and stupid game ended tragically. Bowling pulled the trigger, causing a bullet to go through his head and resulting in his death.

Investigators initially believed Storey’s account of the accident. He was charged with manslaughter. The Georgia Innocence Project stated that police reopened the investigation after Bowling’s family became distraught.

During their investigation, they interviewed a woman living near Bowling’s house. She claimed that Clark and Storey had visited her party a few months prior to the shooting. She alleged that at her party, the pair of 17-year-olds had told her they had planned Bowling’s murder because he had known too much about a prior theft Storey and Clark had committed.

After further investigation, Storey’s manslaughter charge was upgraded to murder, and Clark was arrested as a co-conspirator, despite the fact that Clark had a corroborated alibi. Police relied on testimony from a hearing-impaired witness who was in a different room at the Bowlings’ house when the shooting took place. They claimed that Clark was identified by the witness from a photo lineup. No one else at Bowlings’ reported seeing anyone outside.

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Cain Joshua Storey gives an interview to FOX 5 Atlanta after his release from prison. Storey was present when 15-year-old Brian Bowling shot himself on Oct. 18, 1996. 

After his release from prison, Cain Joshua Storey gave an interview to FOX 5, Atlanta. Storey was present when 15-year-old Brian Bowling shot himself on Oct. 18, 1996.
(Courtesy of Fox 5 Atlanta)

At trial, the state built its case on the party hostess’s testimony that the boys had conspired to kill Bowling in an act of revenge, and on the witness’s identification of Clark fleeing the home. Charlie Childers, a speech- and hearing impaired witness, struggled to communicate with the court. He stated repeatedly that Storey was in the house on the night of shooting but also claimed that a person he called “Darrell”, was not present in courtroom, even though Clark was at the defense table. Childers told the court, through an interpreter, that “Darrell” was a “Black boy” with “black hair” who had a wife, according to FOX 5 Atlanta. Clark, who goes by his middlename, Lee, is White, unmarried, and has brown hair, didn’t like the description.

The state also heard testimony by the county coroner. He had no formal medical training and no autopsy was performed on Bowling. The coroner stated to the court that he felt that the gunshot wound was not self inflicted because it wasn’t a close-contact injury. Despite the weak evidence and Clark’s alibi the trial was concluded in one week. Both men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Lee Clark was wrongfully imprisoned for more than 25 years after he had been convicted for a killing he did not commit. 

Lee Clark was wrongfully imprisoned for more than 25 years after he had been convicted for a killing he did not commit.
(Courtesy of FOX 5 Atlanta)

It wasn’t until 2021, more than two decades later, that the facts of the case were re-examined by Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis on their Proof podcast.

Simpson, Davis re-interviewed key witnesses from the trial. They found a better interpreter to assist Childers who admitted that he had never told police he saw Clark on the night of shooting. His testimony was mostly about an unrelated crime that he had witnessed a decade before.

The Proof podcast hosts also spoke with the party hostess. She said that she was coerced and threatened by police. A new witness was interviewed by the podcast and confirmed her fear of police reprisal.

With this new evidence, senior attorney Christina Cribbs (Georgia Innocence Project) and accountability counsel Meaganhurley (Georgia Innocence Project) secured a new trial. FOX 5 reported that Clark was exonerated by the district attorney and a judge of the superior court.

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“We are elated to see Lee and his family finally obtain the justice that is so long overdue. Cribbs said that without the support of the Bowling family and a district attorney’s office willing to take an objective, new view on an old case, this would not have been possible. Brian’s death was a devastating loss for the Bowling family. Their courage, open minds, willingness and determination to question the ‘facts’ presented to them, and their quest for the truth are inspiring. “

“Official misconduct was certainly a contributing factor in Lee’s case, just as it has been in over 50 percent of wrongful conviction cases. We should remember that unchecked power, without proper checks, allows for the possibility of mistakes and misconduct. Hurley stated that proper oversight is essential, along with educational initiatives to prevent and correct wrongful convictions. “Prosecutors have a responsibility to ensure justice is done in their cases. This must include a commitment towards principles of integrity, equity, and accountability. It is essential that they are open to corrective action when they spot injustice, even if it is committed by police. “

The judge reduced Storey’s charge back to the original manslaughter charge, which carried a sentence of 10 years, and gave him credit for time served. Both men returned home in time for Christmas.

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“It is a real shock. Been behind prison walls for 25 years and walk out and see how the world has changed,” Clark told Fox 5. Glen Clark, his father, was grateful to God that justice had been done.

“Let’s hear a little more. He said, “The Lord is shining, and he’s shining today.”

Chris Pandolfo works as a writer at Fox News Digital. Send tips to chris.pandolfo@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @ChrisCPandolfo.

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