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True Crime Podcast Investigation Helps Free Two Men Wrongfully Convicted Of Murder
The Proof true-crime podcast unearthed misconduct and false incriminating statements that sent Darrell Clark and Cain Storey to prison for their friend Brian Bowling's shooting death.
Two Georgia men who spent 25 years in prison are now free after a true-crime podcast shed light on their wrongful murder convictions.
Darrell Lee Clark and Cain Joshua Storey were just 17 when they were accused of the 1996 shooting death of their friend, 15-year-old Brian Bowling, as stated in court documents provided to Oxygen.com by the Georgia Innocence Project. Beginning in late 2021, Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis of the Proof true-crime podcast helped uncover several facts, including false witness testimony and alleged police misconduct, that “shattered” the state’s theory that Bowling was murdered.
The proof would heavily lean on the theory that the teen died during a deadly game of Russian roulette, resulting in Clark’s exoneration and Storey’s sentence reduction — both of which would see the former co-defendants home for Christmas, the GIP announced Thursday.
“You never think something like this is going to happen to you,” said Clark, thanking the GIP and the Proof podcast. “Never would I have thought I would spend more than half my life in prison, especially for something I didn’t do.”
The GIP emphasized that while they represented Clark, they did not represent his co-defendant, Storey.
Instead, Storey was represented by Luke Martin of Bratcher Martin, who released the following statement to Oxygen.com.
“I was convinced that these men were innocent,” said Martin. “And I was confident I could convince the District Attorney’s office to do the right thing.”
The case began in 1996 when Bowling — while on the phone with his girlfriend — died of a gunshot wound while in the bedroom of his family’s Rome, Georgia, trailer, about 70 miles northwest of Atlanta. Earlier in the conversation, Bowling told his girlfriend he was playing Russian roulette.
Storey had brought the gun to Bowling’s house and was present when Bowling died, according to the GIP. Initially, the police seemed to believe Bowling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but upon the Bowling family’s insistence, they began investigating Bowling’s death as a homicide and soon charged Storey with manslaughter.
Also in Bowling’s home on the night of his death was a speech and hearing-impaired man named Charlie Childers, who would later pick Clark out of a lineup, claiming he saw him running away in the backyard.
Clark was further connected to Bowling’s death months later by Angela Bruce. Bruce stated she hosted a party and overheard Clark and Storey discussing plans to kill Bowling, presumably because Bowling knew too much about a previous theft involving the suspects, according to the GIP. Prosecutors claimed Clark and Storey “conspired to kill Bowling in an act of revenge” after Bowling allegedly snitched to police about the pair stealing a safe containing $3,200, per court documents.
Those statements — even though Storey previously admitted the alleged theft to police — helped secure Clark and Storey’s 1998 murder convictions and their later life sentences.
In 2019, TV producer Jacinda Davis (Evil Lives Here) and Susan Simpson (Undisclosed) created the Proof podcast and would go on to interview the witnesses involved in the case.
“As journalistic investigators, our goal is always to find the truth. But, having said that, we [were] looking for a story where we thought we could make a difference,” Davis told Oxygen.com. “The podcast format itself tends to support the kind of in-depth investigations that are needed to get to the bottom of cases like this one.”
The podcast hosts began challenging the convictions, starting with the statements on hand. They would personally interview Childers with the help of a sign language interpreter.
“The speech and hearing-impaired witness, who had a very difficult time communicating through the court interpreter at trial, continually mentioned Storey’s name as the person he had seen at the Bowling home on the night of the shooting,” according to the GIP. “In contrast, when it came to Clark, Childers repeatedly testified that a person he described as ‘Darrell’ was not in the courtroom — despite the fact that Clark was sitting at the defense counsel’s table.”
Childers would later claim he never picked Clark out of a police lineup, according to court records.
In fact, Childers thought he was being questioned for a “factually similar shooting” he witnessed back in 1976, according to the GIP, who said the witness was “unable to effectively separate the facts of that case from the circumstances surrounding Bowling’s 1996 shooting death.”
Podcast hosts Davis and Simpson also interviewed Angela Bruce, who claimed she was coerced into making false statements about the defendants after police threatened to remove her children from the home.
According to court documents reviewed by Oxygen.com, Bruce also claimed one of the investigators “harassed her at her home by seeking sexual favors multiple times,” forcing her to make the statements against the defendants in 1997 and again in 1998.
Those challenging the convictions would also question the veracity of a coroner who testified about Bowling’s gunshot wound, according to the GIP. Advocates say the coroner did not have proper medical training and instead relied on their “gut feeling” that the injury was not self-inflicted.
In fact, according to the GIP, no autopsy was ever performed on Bowling’s body.
On Thursday, the Floyd County District Attorney’s office agreed to overturn Clark’s conviction following an extraordinary motion for a new trial in light of the new evidence provided by the podcast’s independent findings.
Storey’s charges were amended to reflect his initial manslaughter charges, and he was sentenced to 10 years with time served, meaning he will also be home in time for Christmas, according to Fox Atlanta affiliate WAGA-TV.
“Obviously, that’s been served in full,” said the judge.
Proof’s Jacinda Davis told Oxygen.com that she and Simpson “could never have hoped for such an emotional and positive outcome.”
“One of the surprising things about this case is how rapidly it was resolved,” said Davis. “It moved at warp speed, driven forward by their incredibly dedicated lawyers and a district attorney’s office who rapidly reviewed and accepted the new evidence.”
Clark was released shortly after the hearing, where his father, Glen Clark, was waiting, according to the GIP.
“I’ve been waiting on this day for a long, long time, and I can’t begin to thank everyone who has supported us. Without y’all, we wouldn’t have made it,” said the father. “While today is a celebration for us, I also want to let the Bowling family know how heavy our hearts are for them, and for what happened. There are no hard feelings; we love them.”
Davis said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when seeing Clark and Storey walk away from the Floyd County Jail Thursday evening.
“[It’s] a moment we will never forget,” Davis told Oxygen.com.
Senior Attorney Christina Cribbs of the GIP said they were “elated” with the news, specifically thanking the victim’s family for their open-mindedness.
“This would not have been possible without the Bowling family’s support and a district attorney’s office that was willing to take an objective, new look at an old case,” said Cribbs. “The Bowling family suffered a great loss when Brian died. Their strength, open minds, willingness to question information that has been presented as ‘fact,’ and quest for the truth is inspiring.”
Storey’s attorney, Luke Martin, also thanked the Bowling family for their “incredible grace,” according to their release to Oxygen.com.
A fundraiser was created to help Clark get back on his feet since Georgia is one of 12 states that do not offer financial relief to those wrongfully convicted.
Attorney Luke Martin also created a GoFundMe campaign to help his client, Storey.
Clark is now reunited with this family and hopes to start a new life in Cave Springs, Georgia, while Storey also looks forward to navigating through life as a free man.