Manual Reasonable Doubt: The Fashion Writer, Cape Cod, and the Trial of Chris McCowen

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MA: That Friday night, is that correct? But Bob George would argue Chris got his days wrong. SH: He says he was on his route on a Thursday, Christa called him into her home because she wanted him to remove her Christmas tree. MR: Was there anything to back this up, though? Bob George pointed to two things at trial. Remember Don Horton? We talked about him last time.

Chris McCowen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know |

He was the owner of Cape Cod Disposal who hired Chris and gave him a place to live. He says he got a call from Chris one day while Chris was on his route. What should I do? Should I take it? He says the forensic evidence also supports it.

BG: There were no fingerprints, there were no footprints, there was nothing in the house that indicated Chris McCowen was there other than the seminal fluid. MR: All this served as an attempt by the defense to create a bigger valley between when Chris had sex with Christa and when she died. MR: And the defense would welcome those so-called red flags. And just like in his interview with police, he said that he left the Juice Bar and went to an after-party where a fight broke out.

BG: And did the police ask you where you had been that day?

Christopher McCowen in court + interview with his wife

Jeremy Frazier: Yes. BG: And did you remember? JF: No. JF: Yeah, until they fed me pieces of information, where I was that night. BG: So they were feeding you pieces of information? JF: Yeah. BG: And when you say feeding you pieces of information, who was feeding you pieces of information? JF: State Police.

MR: Jeremy Frazier said under oath that the police helped refresh his memory about where he was that night. DA: Jeremy Frazier is a prosecution witness who is now saying that the state police were feeding him information. Jeremy was asked point-blank if he was involved in the murder.

The friend Jeremy says he was with, Sean Mulvey, would also testify, backing up that Jeremy was with him all night.

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Sean Mulvey: Jeremy was probably the most intoxicated out of everybody, so I told him to come with me. BG: During the course of that evening, did Jeremy remain at your house? SM: The whole night? Yes, he did. Is that correct? SM: Yeah, that was the first time advice from my father. BG: So was that a lie? SM: In the first statement? MR: We wanted to talk with Sean and see if he remembered anything about that night. So no luck?

All right. MR: No one was home so we left a note, but we never heard anything. Could they look past the DNA? Could they believe that he had consensual sex with her? The jury was instructed to only weigh the evidence outlined in the case, but some, like author Peter Manso and defense attorney Bob George, saw the case as a broader challenge about assumptions and prejudice.

PM: I think this entire case is riven with racial prejudice. Then, it became a rape case. SH: This defense was somewhat novel in this town, because you have to believe that this White, privileged, attractive fashion writer from a background of affluence would actually be interested in a good-looking, yet simplistic, African-American garbage collector.

In order for the defense to be successful, they had to convince the jury that this was consensual. Prosecutor Robert Welsh during his closing argument. RW: Mr. I suggest this defendant would be facing the same evidence and the same trial with the same jury if he were White. MR: Sixteen days after the start of the trial, the jury was given the case. MR: It would take eight days of deliberation and one juror being removed for phone calls she made to her boyfriend talking about the case before a verdict would come in.

AB: After many days, the verdict comes in. RW: We, the jury, ask to return the following verdict, guilty of first degree, guilty of murder in the first degree and extreme atrocity or cruelty and also felony murder. MR: Guilty on all three counts, murder, rape, and aggravated burglary. BG: I went into closing argument believing I had, at the very least, a case of reasonable doubt. After the verdict was delivered, McCowen, of course, was devastated, and he started to cry.

SH: I remember this case for one reason and one reason alone.

I watched the verdict come in. SH: And having been a prosecutor and seen so many defendants be found guilty, I always look at the defendant for a reaction. This reaction was completely unusual.

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When the verdict came in and Christopher McCowen was found guilty of murder, of rape, he shook his head vehemently and cried. MR: Chris would never testify during his trial, but at his sentencing, the court would hear from him for the first and only time. MA: According to consideration of your offense as set forth and said indictment, hereby sentence you to being imprisoned at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction for and during the term of your natural life, without the possibility of parole.

MR: Chris would receive three life sentences, one for the murder, one for the rape, and one for the burglary. BG: But in Massachusetts, unlike other states, conviction on first-degree murder is life without parole. You die in prison. BG: Three particular jurors that contacted me that they believed that there was racial bias in the jury deliberations, and I immediately filed.

I met with those three jurors and I immediately filed a motion to set aside a verdict as a result of racial bias in the jury room. One of the jurors that signed an affidavit was the sole Black female on the panel. PM: Two hands went up?

Who killed Christa Worthington?

The judge tells us, until we start to deliberate, when we walk into this room, this man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. PM: How many people thought he was guilty from the get-go? I want to say at least five or six. MR: The juror did not want us to use her name. She told us that, after the trial, she moved as far away from the Cape as possible and, in her interview with Manso for his book, she described comments that she felt were racially biased during deliberations. PM: Morning or afternoon? Female: Morning.

PM: What happened? Female: We were putting up issues, writing down pros and cons about what we think happened. PM: On these easels? Female: Yeah, right. So I did me a whole probably presentation of why I think this man is innocent. Female: Right.

Simon Says | Transcription

After I finished presenting my case, so to say, I wanted to sit down. Female: Of acting like Bob George. It had no effect on the verdict. There were a number of interrogations where he gave different versions of what happened. Each one of the jurors was called in to testify about the deliberation process.

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Judge Nickerson had four or five days of hearings and then sometime in the next couple of months, I think it was in early , that motion was denied. It went up as part of the appeal and it was denied on appeal.