Murder trial in Morgan County faces complications

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. - The confession of a former Decatur Police officer that he stole evidence in an unrelated case could create enormous difficulties for the prosecution in an upcoming capital murder trial.

Jonathan Lowery is a former crime scene technician for the Decatur Police Department. He is listed as a witness in the trial of Joseph Cowan, a 24-year-old charged in the 2015 shooting deaths of Josh Davis and Antonio Hernandez. Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson disclosed the allegations against Lowery and said he still planned to use him as a witness last Friday, only 11 days before the trial.

Lowery revealed that he had stolen jewelry from an old case after he admitted to committing a crime during a pre-polygraph interview when applying for a federal job, according to the motion filed by Cowan's lawyers, Brian White, and Jake Watson, which recounted Anderson's statements from last week.

Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell issued the order delaying the trial Wednesday night, and also set a hearing focused on Lowery’s conduct for Friday.  Lowery, Decatur police Lt. Todd Pinion of Internal Affairs and Chief Nate Allen were subpoenaed to testify at Friday's hearing.

Lowery was a crime scene technician from February 2011 to February 2018 but is no longer employed with the Decatur Police Department. Lowery, was transferred from the Police Department to the city's Community Development Department in January. He testified in the trial of Cortez Mitchell, one of the three defendants charged with the murders along with Cowan.

Mitchell, who has appealed his case on other grounds, was convicted on two counts of felony murder and four counts of first-degree robbery. Howell sentenced him to two life sentences and four 20-year sentences, with one of the life sentences to run concurrently with the four 20-year sentences.

Both Joseph Cowan and his younger brother, Cedric Cowan, are awaiting trial. Lowery processed the crime scene at Wilson Morgan Park, where the body of shooting victim Josh Davis was found. He also was the evidence technician on the scene when police executed the search warrant at the Cowan house, where the Cowan brothers lived.

Lawyers for the Cowan Brothers believe Lowery’s alleged misconduct and his pivotal role in the investigation of Joseph Cowan are critical.

This Friday's hearing was just the beginning. The defense argues this boils down to an integrity issue within the Decatur Police Department. The hearing on Friday is expected to continue on Monday at noon with the Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen taking the witness stand.

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