Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Stephan Cowans

First NameStephan
Last NameCowans
Year of Conviction1998
Year of Exoneration2004
State of ConvictionMassachusetts
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeArmed Assault
Death SentenceNo
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeBlack
Type of Innocence Defense
  • Third Party Guilt
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Three witnesses testified that perpetrator had close-cut hair cut, which defendant did not have at the time of the crime.

Did the defendant testify at trial?No
Types of evidence at trial
  • Eyewitness
  • Forensic Evidence
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Fingerprint
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Invalid
  • Not Disclosed
Reason why invalid(2) Failure to exclude
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

See Part II.E. for a discussion of this case. The evidence was presented to the jury in a misleading manner and Boston Police auditors reached the unanimous conclusion that Officer LeBlanc realized prior to trial that Cowans was excluded but nevertheless did not present that fact in his trial testimony.

Identity of eyewitness
  • Cross Racial Identification
  • Victim
Multiple eyewitnesses4
Lineup Procedures
  • Lineup
Suggestive Procedures

No – But Cowans was repeated from the photo array to the line-up And members of line-up were in their mid-to-late twenties, while witnesses described a shooter aged 19- 20 or so.

Unreliable Identification?

Yes ● Initially uncertain – several witnesses uncertain about identification

Quotes from testimony #2

Victim when viewing photo array could not make identification; “I stated that I believed that was the person who shot me but I’d like to see him in person.” Several eyewitnesses did not make an identification during the photo array, or the lineup

Highest level reachedAppeal
Claims Raised During All Appeals and Postconviction
  • Jackson Claim
  • Jury Instructions
  • State Law Evidence Claim
Harmless Error Rulings
  • G
Citations to judicial opinions

Commonwealth v. Cowans, 756 N.E.2d 622 (Mass. App. Ct. 2001)

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