Eddie Lowery: A Kansas Wrongful Conviction
In the early morning hours of July 26, 1981, an Ogden, Kansas woman was brutally raped in her home. Nearby that same night, Eddie Lowery, a 22 year-old soldier stationed at Fort Riley, was involved in a car accident.
Because of his accident’s proximity to the location of the rape, Lowery was questioned by police about the rape all day with no food or rest. When he requested an attorney, he was told he did not need one.
“I didn’t know any way out of that [situation], except to tell them what they wanted to hear. And then get a lawyer to prove my innocence,” said Lowery in 2010.
Exhausted and scared, Lowery confessed to a crime he did not commit, believing the truth would come out in court. After his arrest, Lowery quickly recanted his confession. But, during his trial, it was used as evidence against him.
Lowery was convicted of the rape, and sentenced to 11 years to life in prison. He served nearly 10 years at the Lansing Correctional Facility for a crime he did not commit. In 1991, he was paroled, required to register as a sex offender and was dishonorably discharged from the military.
With the help of his attorney and the Innocence Project, Lowery paid to have the rape kit and other evidence from his case tested in hopes of proving his innocence. Twenty years after his wrongful conviction, Lowery was officially exonerated by DNA evidence. In 2010, the City of Manhattan and Riley County settled a $7.5 million civil suit for Lowery’s wrongful conviction and the 10 years he served in prison.
Eddie Lowery’s case is a clear example of how even with the best intentions, mistakes happen in Kansas criminal trials. Since 1994, a quarter of Kansas death sentences have been overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court due to errors made during the trials. As long as Kansas has the death penalty, wrongful convictions and wrongful executions remain an unacceptable risk.