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Kevin Bowman

Other Philadelphia Exonerations
Just after 3 a.m. on March 13, 1989, police officers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, responded to reports of a shooting at the Richard Allen Homes public-housing community. At the bottom of a stairwell, they found 18-year-old Neil Wilkinson, who had been shot to death, and 20-year-old Darryl Woods, who was alive but shot six times in the left knee, left arm, stomach, and hip.

Woods was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he remained for more than two months. Investigators recovered five 12-gauge shotgun casings and four 10 mm cartridge casings at the crime scene.

Woods gave a statement to Detective Marlena Mosley and Detective Thomas Augustine on March 21 at 11:30 a.m. He said that two unnamed men drove him and Wilkinson to the apartments. The men told Wilkinson and Woods to knock on an apartment door and to pull the occupant out of the apartment when he opened the door. Woods said the two unnamed men then shot him and Wilkinson from the bottom of the stairs. During the interview, Woods looked at about 100 photographs and said that a picture of 23-year-old Kevin Bowman “looks like one of them.” The officers noted on the bottom that “compl[ainant]was unable to sign this interview.”

Woods gave a second statement to police later that day. It elaborated on the first statement but still did not identify the shooters. Again, at the bottom of the statement, the police wrote that Woods was unable to sign.

Woods made a third statement the next day. This time, he told the police the nicknames of the two men who shot him and Wilkinson—“Tone” and “Black”—and that Black’s first name was Kevin. He said the shooting happened while he and Wilkinson were collecting a drug debt. Again, the police wrote that Woods was unable to sign.

Woods’s fourth statement was dated March 23. The first half was typed; the second half was hand-written. Woods said that Tone and Black told him and Wilkinson to go up the stairs and knock on the door. Woods said he felt a shot in his knee and then saw Wilkinson get shot. Woods said that he and Wilkinson rolled down the stairs and that he survived by playing dead.

During the interview, Woods was said to identify Bowman as “Black.” According to this statement, Junior Black Mafia leaders Leroy Davis and Rodney Carson ordered the murder because they suspected that Woods and decedent Wilkinson were providing information about the gang to police. Woods had been arrested and taken into custody a week before the shooting. Unlike the first three times, Woods signed this statement.

Woods gave his fifth statement to police on April 8 to Detective Chester Kochinksi and Detective Michael Gross. Woods identified a photograph of 21-year-old Anthony Reid and said, “That’s Tone—he shot Neal (sic).” According to the detectives, Woods was asked to sign the statement but said he could not because of a recent skin graft operation.

Police arrested Reid on April 10, 1989, and Bowman on June 27, 1989. They were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy, and weapons violations. At the time of his arrest, Reid was out on bond, awaiting trial on a separate murder charge in the death of Mark Lisby. He was then arrested on May 11, 1989, and charged with a third murder of a 16-year-old boy named Michael Waters, that occurred on March 7, 1989.

Bowman and Reid were tried together in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, beginning on March 28, 1990. At the time of the trial, there was extensive coverage in the local media about the Junior Black Mafia (JBM). During jury selection, Judge John Poserina Jr. initially said the topic was not relevant. But Assistant District Attorney Robert Campolongo argued that the gang angle was important for establishing conspiracy and motive. The judge asked the prosecutor to present evidence of its relevance. Campolongo didn’t do that. Instead, after saying, “I am not going to make any reference to the JBM,” he proceeded to make this a key part of jury selection.

Later, Judge Poserina instructed the jury on how its members should consider evidence regarding the JBM. “You might hear the words Junior Black Mafia mentioned,” he said. “If you hear the words in this case, it is for the limited purpose of showing whatever the limited amount of evidence that comes to you about that association is going to be for.”

This would be one of numerous pronouncements, rulings, and curative instructions by Judge Poserina during the trial, as Campolongo presented the state’s case and sparred with the defense attorneys. Judge Poserina admonished him during his opening statement for introducing evidence rather than outlining the case. Campolongo also told jurors that Woods had invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination at a preliminary hearing. Judge Poserina reminded him that he had ruled against introducing this evidence in that manner. Bowman’s attorney, Joseph Santiguida, moved for a mistrial. Judge Poserina declined the request and told the jurors to disregard that statement.

Woods had recanted most of his earlier statements, and attorneys for Bowman and Reid argued that the unsigned statements should not be admitted into evidence because they had not been adopted by Woods. Judge Poserina denied the motion, ruling that jurors could decide whether Woods adopted the statements.

Woods testified that he, Wilkinson, Bowman, and Reid, went to the apartments, but he denied that Bowman and Reid were the shooters. He said two other men shot him and Wilkinson. The prosecutor then impeached him with the statements Woods was said to have made at the hospital. Woods denied making the first three statements. He acknowledged part of the fourth statement, which was signed, but he said that he was “dizzy” from surgery and that his signature was only for the sixth page, not the other five. He testified that when he identified Bowman, it was only to state that Bowman was with him at the time of the shooting. He testified similarly about his identification of Reid.

Woods testified that the officers threatened him with arrest if he didn’t cooperate. “They were telling me that I knew that they were the ones that killed Wilkinson and shot me and that I should tell Detective Mosley that and that no matter what my condition is if I don’t, they are going to lock me up, whether I was paralyzed or not.”

Campolongo asked Woods about his refusal to testify at the preliminary hearing. Harry Seay, Reid’s attorney, objected and asked for a mistrial, which was denied. During a sidebar conference, Seay said that Campolongo had willfully ignored Judge Poserina’s earlier ruling on this line of questioning. The judge told Campolongo, “I am going to have to send a letter to your superiors saying you’re incompetent to try cases before me because ... you won’t keep your mouth shut when I am speaking.”

The officers who interviewed Woods at the hospital testified that Woods was alert and cooperative. They said that he could not sign the first three statements because his right arm was immobilized and could not sign the fifth statement because of a skin graft.

Mosley testified about the fourth statement, which was signed. Although the statement was dated March 23, Mosley testified that it was actually signed March 24. She said Woods had been unable to sign it on the earlier day because his right arm was attached to an “intravenous board.” She said the board was removed by the time she returned the next day. (At a preliminary hearing, Mosley did not acknowledge the date discrepancy in the fourth statement.) In addition, Mosley testified that she had created the fourth statement by typing up part of her notes and then including hand-written notes for the remainder. She did not keep the hand-written notes that were the basis of the typed portion.

Mosley testified that she didn’t interview Woods before March 21, although she went to check on him several times in the week after the shooting.

On redirect examination, Woods was asked whether an IV board prevented him from signing any statement, as Mosley suggested. “No sir,” he responded.

Police had executed a search warrant on Bowman’s home and recovered several shotgun shells and 9 mm bullets. A firearms expert testified that the bullets were too small to fit the 10 mm shells found at the crime scene and the shotgun shells were from different manufacturers.

Detective Ernest Bethea testified that he spoke with Woods about a week before the shooting after police arrested Woods on a weapons charge. Bethea said he asked Woods to tell the police about the JBM and that he gave Woods a week to think it over. March 13 was the day Bethea and Woods were to meet again, Bethea testified.

Over the objection of Bowman’s attorney, Bethea also testified that he saw Bowman wink at Woods and mouth “Thank you” at the preliminary hearing where Woods refused to testify.

In his statements, Woods had only identified Reid one time, and the state attempted to shore up this identification by introducing testimony that implicated Reid in the death of Michael Waters and forensic evidence that appeared to tie the two murders together. Seay unsuccessfully moved to exclude evidence on the Waters murder. Instead, Judge Poserina said that the state could introduce testimony about the facts of that crime, not the details.

That didn’t happen. Under questioning from Campolongo, Daniel McKay, a witness from the Waters case, said he saw Reid get out of a dark Ford after children threw snowballs at the car. McKay testified that Reid asked him whether he was involved, and McKay said he wasn’t. He said Reid reached into his pocket and told others in the car, “Let’s at least get one of them.” McKay said he saw the car speed around the block and approach the children. The car stopped, and McKay saw flashing light from the vehicle and heard several shots. He testified that he did not see Reid fire a weapon.

Seay objected several times during this testimony. Judge Poserina sustained the objections, but Campolongo continued. He brought out a chart for McKay to look at. Seay objected again. Judge Poserina excluded the chart. After more argument, he told the prosecutor, “No, No, No. I am going to say no forever. I can yell as loud as you can, I have a mic. The details of that crime are not admissible in this trial. Period. Period.”

Police had recovered two 10 mm casings at the Waters crime scene. Officer John Binor, a forensic technician with the police department, testified that he compared the breach block markings on those casings with the 10 mm casings found at the Wilkinson crime scene. He testified that it was his conclusion that “one singular firearm” fired these bullets.

In closing arguments, attorneys for Bowman and Reid urged the jury to discount Woods’s statements to police as not credible and inconsistent with his testimony. They advanced a theory that the men might have been shot by the partner of a woman that Woods sought to visit that morning.

The prosecutor scoffed at that idea and said it lacked supporting evidence. He said that the state had not asked a handwriting expert to examine Woods’s signature on all six pages of the signed statement; it was sufficient that the detectives testified that they watched Woods sign.

In addition, for Reid’s case, the prosecutor said that based on Officer Binor’s testimony, the Waters and Wilkinson murders were “scientifically forever joined” by “undisputed, clearly scientific” forensic evidence, which added heft to Woods’s out-of-court identification.

The jury convicted Reid and Bowman of first-degree murder, conspiracy, and weapons violations, on April 19, 1990. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty against both men, but the jury deadlocked during the penalty phase, and Judge Poserina sentenced them to life in prison. Separately, Reid was later convicted in separate trials of first-degree murder in the Waters case, and first-degree murder in the Lisby case. He received the death penalty for these convictions.

Both men appealed their convictions through the state courts. Bowman exhausted his state claims in 1994. Reid, in his initial appeal, argued that Campolongo committed prosecutorial misconduct. Judge Poserina affirmed the conviction on January 21, 1993. He wrote: “At times the prosecutor went beyond what this Court in its discretion considered the permissible limits of cross-examination. When this happened, the Court sustained an objection (the record shows that virtually every question was objected to and instructed the jury to disregard the question). This Court made every effort to guarantee a fair trial. The defense assigns error to this Court and charges the prosecutor with misconduct. The law supports this Court’s actions.”

Reid then sought relief in federal court, filing his first petition for a writ of habeas corpus in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2004. The petition again asserted claims that Campolongo’s misconduct infected the trial and that Judge Poserina’s instructions and attempts to rein in the prosecutor were ineffective.

“The record demonstrates that the prosecutor had an agenda that would not countenance the ‘interference’ of the rules of evidence, trial advocacy norms, rulings and instructions by the court or even good manners,” the petition said. “The record is laden with examples. The jury could not have failed to be distracted by these circus-like proceedings. The judge had no control over the lawyers, the evidence was idiosyncratically managed and the jury saw and heard it all.”

The petition was denied on September 2, 2009. Reid appealed, and the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of habeas relief on March 25, 2011. The appellate court said it agreed with earlier rulings that Campolongo’s misconduct did not rise to the level requiring Reid to receive a new trial. But in a footnote, the court said: “Indeed, reference to the Pennsylvania Bar’s ethics committee for disciplinary proceedings may well be in order, and we encourage that, at a minimum, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office take appropriate steps to counsel and discipline this prosecutor.”

On June 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Williams v. Pennsylvania that Judge Ronald Castille of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should have recused himself from participating in a 2014 ruling that reinstated the death penalty against Terrance Williams. Prior to his election to the bench, Castille had been district attorney in Philadelphia County and in 1986 had approved the state seeking the death penalty against Williams.

Castille had also authorized the state to seek the death penalty against Reid in this case and later participated in a ruling that denied an appeal of Reid’s motion for a new trial. In August 2016, Reid used the Williams ruling as the basis to reopen his motion for post-conviction relief. A lower court allowed him to proceed, but the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed on February 7, 2019, ruling that Reid’s request was untimely. His similar petitions for relief in the two other convictions were also rejected.

While these three appeals were working their way through the state courts, Reid received two batches of records from the state. The first, which he received in 2019, contained Woods’s medical records, which had been not disclosed prior to trial. The second, which he received in 2021, contained the investigative files from the police and the district attorney’s office. Many of these documents had also not been disclosed.

These records formed the basis of a new petition for relief filed on May 10, 2022.

The medical records cast doubt on the statements attributed to Woods and the testimony of the police that he was unable to sign. Woods signed medical documents both before and after these unsigned statements. In addition, notes from a nurse said that Woods, who is right-handed, was moving his right arm very well. The records also said that Woods received 16 doses of morphine between March 21-23, 1989. “The Commonwealth’s suppression of the evidence related to Darryl Woods’s ability to sign the police statements duped the trial court into believing that the unsigned statements should be admitted,” the motion said.

Without explanation, the state had withdrawn the aggravated assault charges against Bowman and Reid. The charge required showing “serious bodily injury,” and the motion speculated that the charge was dropped to avoid releasing Woods’s medical records.

The hospital records covered more than Woods’s condition. Woods spoke with a healthcare worker at the hospital on April 14, 1989. The employee wrote in the report: “Events leading to hospital: had met girl at disco the night prior. Took her back to her complex that night [and] said he would see her next day. He found out which apt. she lived in and at 3 AM went with a friend to see her. They were knocking at the door and no answer. 2 men came up to them in the dark [and] began shooting. His friend was killed immediately. He does not know why they opened fire except that maybe one of the assailants was a boyfriend.”

The files from the police and prosecutors contained a note questioning the absence of Woods’s signature on the statements. Why was Woods unable to sign on March 21, 1989, when he was able prior to that date, the note asked.

The new documents also contained a pre-trial report on the six signatures attributed to Woods on the signed statement. The state’s expert concluded that Woods likely signed pages 4-6. “No other determinations can be effected,” the report said, without explanation on the first three pages. The report appeared to contradict Campolongo’s closing argument.

The state’s files also included notes from an undated interview with Woods, whose name was misspelled as Derrell Wood. The motion asserted the interview must have taken place before March 21, because the police reports after that date include the correct spelling. It also asserted that Mosley conducted the interview because the handwriting matched other reports she wrote. If so, that contradicted Mosley’s testimony that she didn’t interview Woods prior to March 21. In the undated report, Woods said the shooting happened after he was going to meet up with a woman named Tonya.

The police files also contained a police report from March 14, 1989, where a man known as D.T. approached officers and said he was involved in a shooting the day before. There was no record of that interview.

Separately, a new examination of the forensic evidence undermined the link between the Waters and Wilkinson murders. An investigator named Robert Tressel said that although 10 mm shells were recovered from the area where Waters was shot, police found no slugs consistent with the shells. They did recover two .38-caliber slugs. One was on a nearby porch; the other was removed from Waters’s body. “Only a 38-cal. weapon can be identified as being involved in the shooting,” Tressel wrote. “With no projectiles found associated with the 10 mm fired cartridge casings, the recovered cartridge casings cannot be linked to this case.”

Reid’s attorneys argued that without a ballistic link, evidence from the Waters case should not have been presented.

Reid, represented by Loren Stewart of the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, had shared this discovery material with Bowman, who filed his own petition for relief in 2022. Bowman was represented by Zak Goldstein.

In separate responses, the Philadelphia County District Attorney’s Office agreed that Reid and Bowman should be granted new trials. The responses did not address the claims about prosecutorial misconduct during the trial. They also didn’t assert that either defendant was factually innocent.

“Nevertheless,” the state said in its responses, “where the convictions relied on the recanted out-of-court statements of one witness, and where the prosecutor’s file contained undisclosed material that could have called the reliability of that out-of-court accusation into serious question, the Commonwealth believes that a Brady violation has occurred, which necessitates a new trial.

Judge Scott DiClaudio of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granted Bowman and Reid new trials on February 2, 2023. The state dismissed the charges on March 8, 2023. Bowman was released from prison. Reid remains incarcerated.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 5/16/2023
Last Updated: 5/16/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Weapon Possession or Sale, Conspiracy
Reported Crime Date:1989
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No