Framed?

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 28, 2010

If this account given to the Phoenix is accurate, Gallagher would not have gotten the close look at the suspect that he described to the jury. Without that claim, Gallagher’s ID, and the case against Cowans, would have been far weaker.

At least two other witnesses gave accounts to police, contained in reports in the case file, that are closer to this description of events, including the detail of the shooter waiting, crouched, with a gun already drawn. No witnesses claimed to see the two men struggle in the fenced-in yard, or to see the shooter take the gun from the officer.

And initially, Gallagher was not nearly as certain of his identification as he claimed to be in court.

When Cowans’s name first surfaced as a suspect, Gallagher said only that Cowans’s photo “most resembles” the person who shot him, out of eight faces in a photo array, and that he “was not positive.” He asked to view Cowans in a live line-up. The line-up was not arranged until more than two weeks later, when the grand jury considering the case against Cowans specifically requested it. By that time, Cowans’s face was familiar to anyone who read or watched the news in Boston; Gallagher picked him from an eight-man line-up, and the grand jury indicted Cowans the next day.

In identifying Cowans, Gallagher was also deviating from the widely reported claim that the suspect was someone Gallagher had dealt with before.

Shortly after the shooting, BPD Superintendent Robert Faherty told the Boston Globe that Gallagher had seen the same suspect twice earlier that same day. Gallagher’s sister told the Boston Herald, the day after the shooting, that the shooter was well-known to her brother: “He knew this guy,” she is quoted as saying. “They’d had problems before.”

A former BPD officer who knew Gallagher at the time and asked not to be identified recalls Gallagher telling him at the beginning of the investigation that the shooter was someone he was familiar with, but did not know his name.

That was all before Cowans — with whom Gallagher had never previously had contact — became a suspect. At Cowans’s trial, Gallagher testified that he had never seen the shooter before this incident.

The former BPD officer says that Gallagher’s demeanor changed dramatically after Cowans became a suspect, two weeks after the shooting. He suspects that Gallagher may have been talked into going along with the case against Cowans, perhaps ultimately coming to believe the (later to be proved erroneous) fingerprint match over his own eyes and recollections.

“Gallagher was really ready to go forward, get the right guy,” the officer says. “Then when they came up with [Cowans], it seemed like he was unwilling to talk about it any more. I sensed that something was wrong.”

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Missing bullets
Gallagher’s tale of being shot after having his gun wrestled away was backed up by the testimony of Mark Vickers, then the head of the BPD ballistics unit. He collected, stored, and examined bullets and shell casings from the crime scene, and claimed that all of the shots were fired by Gallagher’s Glock. That would seem to rule out the scenario described above, in which the suspect used his own gun to shoot Gallagher, then picked up the dropped Glock and fired rounds from it.

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