Saturday, November 6, 2004

Commute sentence, letter requests

Lawmakers cite doubts in case

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A group of Kentucky lawmakers asked Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Friday to spare the life of a man convicted of murder after questions arose about his mental competency and his guilt.

In a letter to the governor, the lawmakers say Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr.'s death sentence should be commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a news release.

"If Mr. Bowling is guilty of this terrible crime, we certainly believe he should be held accountable and punished severely," seven lawmakers said in the letter. "Kentucky has the ability to do just that by keeping him locked up until he dies."

Bowling was convicted of killing Tina and Edward Earley, and shooting their then 2-year-old son outside the couple's dry-cleaning business in Lexington on April 19, 1990. Bowling has said he was drunk and does not remember the day of the shootings.

Bowling's attorneys have argued he did not kill the Earleys, and that he should not face execution because they believe he is mentally retarded. His attorneys have petitioned Fletcher for clemency.

Attorney General Greg Stumbo has asked the governor to set Bowling's execution date for Nov. 16.

Lawmakers who signed the letter included Democratic Reps. Tom Burch of Louisville; Mary Lou Marzian of Lexington; Kathy Stein of Lexington; Jim Wayne of Louisville; Rob Wilkey of Scottsville; Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, and Rep. Mary Harper, R-Shepherdsville.

The lawmakers also cite in their letter a group of University of Kentucky medical school students who have asked the governor not to sign the death warrant because Fletcher is a medical doctor.

Fletcher's general counsel John Roach said the governor's office was considering all requests and "all the different perspectives" raised in the case.

"We're still reviewing the matter and we hopefully will have a decision regarding the request for issuing the death warrant very soon," Roach said Friday.

Bowling's lawyers have claimed he was framed.

They have said they believe Lexington police videotaped interviews during the first days of the murder investigation that may help prove Bowling's innocence. However, Bowling's lawyers have not been allowed access to the videotapes.

The state has executed 164 inmates since 1911, Kentucky Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said.

Bowling would be Kentucky's third death row inmate to be executed since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.

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