Clemency Letter for Thomas Clyde Bowling
December 3, 2004
Governor Ernie Fletcher
700 Capital Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, KY 40601
Re: Thomas Clyde Bowling
by Fax: (502) 564-2517
Dear Governor Fletcher:
On behalf of the Capital Punishment Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, I am writing to urge you to commute the death sentence of Thomas Bowling, who is on Kentucky's death row to life in prison. Although Mr. Bowley's execution date has recently been stayed, should the stay be lifted, we urge you to commute his sentence. It appears that Mr. Bowling is mentally retarded, and there are lingering doubts about his guilt in the murder of Tina and Eddie Earley. While we are deeply sympathetic to their family and friends, it would be immoral to execute someone who may not be the murderer. Commutation of Mr. Bowling's sentence would enable the state to establish his guilt or innocence with moral certainty.
Several issues in this troubling case must be investigated.
1. The issue of Mr. Bowling's mental retardation has never been litigated in court. Mr. Bowling suffered from intellectual and adaptive disabilities from early on in his life. His parents had to lay his clothes out for him and make sure he bathed. He was a "slow learner" and spent 3 years in the ninth grade. He even failed health class three years in a row.
Mentally retarded people are easily led -- as was Mr. Bowling. They are likely to be blamed for crimes, and not able to adequately help in their own defense. That is what happened to Mr. Bowling. Thus, questions remain about his guilt.
2. The prosecution did not establish a motive for their theory that Mr. Bowling killed the Earleys. Out of the jury's hearing, the prosecution said they had evidence that suggested Bowling was a hit man hired to kill the Earleys. However, they did not present evidence in support of this theory. And, though there are other likely suspects, no one else was investigated or charged in the case.
At the time of the crime Mr. Bowling was drunk in an apartment frequented by drug dealers who may have used his car when committing the murders.
3. The prosecution withheld evidence from Mr. Bowling, which depending on what the information is, may amount to prosecutorial misconduct. Nationally, 117 people have been freed from death row since 1976. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, prosecutorial misconduct -including withholding of evidence - is one of the leading factors in these exonerations.
The recent Supreme Court decision Atkins v. Virginia prohibits the execution of the mentally retarded. Moreover, public opinion is against executing mentally ill people. According to a 2002 Gallup Poll, 75 percent of the public surveyed opposed executing the mentally ill. Because Mr. Bowling may be mentally retarded, and because there are several issues that have not been heard by a jury of his peers, we urge you to commute his death sentence to life.
Rachel King, Esq.
Capital Punishment Project
ACLU of Kentucky