FLOYD COUNTY, Ga. — Two Floyd County men have been exonerated on murder charges they faced as teens in their friend’s shooting death 25 years ago. New evidence discovered by a podcast helped their case.
Lee Clark walked out of prison a free man on Thursday night and reunited with his father in time for Christmas. His co-defendant and friend Cain Joshua Storey was also released from jail.
“Never would I have thought I would spend more than half my life in prison, especially for something I didn’t do,” said Clark, who was represented by the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP).
“I’m just glad the truth finally came to light after 25 years. I’m so thankful for the Georgia Innocence Project and Proof Podcast for what they did. Without them, I would still be in prison.”
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Clark and Storey faced murder charges as teens in the death of their friend, 15-year-old Brian Bowling.
In 1996, Bowling died from a gunshot wound to the head at his Rome home. Police said the teen told his girlfriend on the phone that he was playing Russian roulette with his best friend Storey. At first, the case was ruled an accident. However, Storey and Clark were later charged with murder.
According to the GIP, a witness said she was hosting a party and heard the teens planning Bowling’s murder at a party because he knew about thefts they had committed.
Another witness who was at Bowling’s home at the time of the shooting identified Clark in a lineup. Police said the witness told them he saw Clark running through the yard on the night Bowling was killed. The GIP said Clark was charged with murder despite having an alibi.
The trial against both teens lasted one week before the jury found them guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
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For the next 24 years, the two served time for their life in prison sentences until the “Proof” podcast began looking into their case.
The GIP said the podcasters Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis interviewed the state’s two key witnesses and learned new details that Clark and Storey’s defense attorneys were unaware of before.
The woman who hosted the party said she was coerced into giving false statements and that investigators threatened to take her children from her. The other witness was hearing and speech impaired had saw other shooting years earlier and was not able to remember which facts belonged to which shooting, according to GIP.
Court documents showed Clark filed a motion for a new trial on Sept. 16, 2022 and Storey filed his motion for a new trial on Nov. 7, 2022.
The defense teams for both men called into question the state’s witness testimonies that led to their conviction. They said the state built its case on false evidence.
“It was Russian Roulette, not murder,” attorneys for Storey wrote in their motion. “There is simply no competent evidence proving that Cain conspired with Lee to kill Brian.”
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On Thursday, Floyd County Superior Court Chief Judge John Niedrach ordered that both men be released immediately.
“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,” Clark’s father Glen said in a statement from GIP. “While today is a day of 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.”
Clark’s murder conviction was vacated. Storey’s murder conviction was also vacated and he entered a plea for involuntary manslaughter with time served under Georgia’s first offender act.
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