The Boston Police investigation of Stephan Cowans led to a wrongful conviction. Was it incompetent — or corrupt?
Stephan Cowans spent nearly seven of his 37 years of life behind bars, locked up for a crime he did not commit. Exonerated in January 2004, Cowans sued and ultimately received a $3.2 million settlement from the city of Boston in 2006. This past October, he was shot dead in his Randolph home — likely by someone seeking part of his wrongful-conviction payday, according to his family and close friends.
Cowans never learned how, or why, he came to be blamed for the non-fatal shooting of Boston police officer Gregory Gallagher in 1997. Now, the Boston Phoenix has uncovered substantial new information about the Cowans case. These revelations are troubling, as they suggest that key members of the Boston Police Department (BPD) knew that Cowans was innocent, even as they forged the case to prosecute him.
The Phoenix has reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, including contents of the original investigative file, and interviewed many sources close to the case. For a variety of reasons, certain case materials, physical evidence, and potential witnesses were not available. Nonetheless, the picture that has emerged is one in which some BPD officers appear to have perjured themselves, and/or concealed evidence, hidden what they knew, and even falsified documents. Officers may have been aware of Cowans’s innocence — some of them may even have known who the real shooter was, and for whatever reason, worked to protect him.
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