Kevin Brian Dowling

Kevin Brian Dowling was convicted of robbing and later murdering Jennifer Myers. According to a Federal appeal filed in 2015 :

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This case presents a textbook example of how a tunnel-visioned police investigation coupled with overzealous and unscrupulous prosecutors can result in the conviction of an innocent person.

On August 5, 1996, Jennifer Myers was robbed at gunpoint in her frame gallery, where she was the sole proprietress. She thought she knew her attacker and initially did not want the police to be contacted. A disgruntled business partner was implicated, apparently on the theory that the robbery was staged as an intimidation tactic.

On November 29, 1996, with no tangible results in their investigation, the police visited Ms. Myers for a follow-up interview. When pressed, she told police that two weeks earlier she thought she observed someone who looked like the attacker working at a convenience store. She explained then that her failure to timely notify the police was due to her lack certainty that he was the perpetrator. The police investigated and when they observed a car of comparable make to the one ostensibly observed near the gallery, they promptly arrested the car’s owner,  Petitioner, Kevin Brian Dowling.

Mr. Dowling was a  married father of three children, with no criminal record, and a lengthy career in operations management.

When Myers was later found murdered, suspicion turned almost exclusively to Petitioner, with the authorities ignoring other likely suspects including: an admitted robber with an identical modus operandi to the perpetrator and who was then on the loose; the victim’s husband who “discovered” the body, and suspiciously, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, dispossessed himself of a weapon of the same caliber as the murder weapon (which the Commonwealth’s expert could not exclude as the weapon used to kill Myers); and the disgruntled former business partner. Because there was little evidence implicating Petitioner in the murder (for which Petitioner was tried separately and sentenced to death) the prosecution sought to bolster the robbery case through coaching of witnesses, renewed reliance on hypnotically refreshed identifications, and a blatant attempt to pollute the jury pool through biased and frequent press appearances (as the trial court found).

In addition, prosecutors contemptuously ignored court rulings and admonitions in order to ensure that the jury heard prejudicial and inadmissible evidence. Against this onslaught, the Commonwealth provided Petitioner with a host of Strickland-deficient lawyers, who collectively did virtually nothing Strickland requires, resulting in no defense being presented at trial and the waiver of virtually all of Petitioner’s claims of error, including ineffectiveness of trial counsel.

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Jermaine Smothers

On May 11, 1995, Jermaine was accused of shooting and killing Ernesto Flores, a prominent member of the Mesa Locos gang.  Jermaine consistently maintained that he did not shoot and kill Ernesto.  Despite passing a polygraph examination prior to trial and despite the exceedingly unreliable eyewitnesses who claimed that they saw him shoot Flores, he was convicted of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.  The trial judge gave him a sentence of 29 years-to-life.

Jermaine’s claims of innocence fell on deaf ears until an unlikely ally appeared.  It all started in 2001 when an Oceanside Police Department homicide detective inadvertently stumbled upon evidence that Jermaine was, in fact, not the shooter in the Flores murder.  At the time, the detective was working on an unrelated homicide.  During the course of her investigation, she came into contact with several people who said that Jermaine was locked up for a crime he did not do. In 2005, she began looking further into Jermaine’s case.  Her supervising Lieutenant told her to leave the matter alone and shot down her pleas to reinvestigate Jermaine’s case.  Undeterred and convinced of Jermaine’s innocence, the detective went directly to the original prosecutor and investigating officers in the hopes that someone would do the right thing.  Unfortunately, the original prosecutor and investigating officers were defensive and nothing ever came of these efforts.

Still undeterred and in an effort to set the record straight and do the right thing, the detective dedicated the next several years to uncovering the truth about the murder.  She interviewed several witnesses who told her who the real shooter was.  Further, the critical eyewitnesses against Jermaine admitted they lied at his trial.  In 2008, the detective presented the case to the California Innocence Project, shortly before her retirement.  Since that time, both she and the California Innocence Project have jointly investigated Jermaine’s case and uncovered further evidence of innocence.  Jermaine will soon be presenting his case to the courts.

Source: California Innocence Project

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