Exonerated on February 2, 2004
Stephan Cowans was convicted of armed assault with intent to murder and other related crimes for the May 30, 1997 shooting of a Boston Police Officer. The officer was shot twice with his own weapon after an altercation. The assailant left his baseball cap and sweatshirt at the scene after firing shots into a neighboring window. He then forcibly entered a home, where he drank a glass of water.
To convict Cowans, the Commonwealth relied heavily on eyewitness identification. The police officer who was injured in the incident identified Cowans as the assailant on two separate occasions. The individual who witnessed the crime though the window also identified him. However, the family that was present in the house that was broken into did not identify him. A latent fingerprint that had been found on a glass mug used by the assailant was also entered into evidence. Prosecutors presented an expert witness that testified that the fingerprint was of Cowan’s left thumb.
From the beginning, Stephan Cowans consistently maintained that he was innocent. Despite the fact that tests on the brim of a baseball cap and sweatshirt worn by the assailant excluded Cowans, the prosecutor insisted that he would re-try the case on the basis of the fingerprint on the mug. However, after re-examining the fingerprint evidence, Boston and State Police concluded that the original fingerprint analysis was mistaken and the fingerprint was not a match for Cowans. After serving over six and a half years in prison, Stephan Cowans was officially exonerated in January of 2004. Unfortunately, Stephan passed away in 2007, just three years after he was exonerated.