Man convicted of sex crimes walks free in West Virginia after judge catches ‘fatal flaws’ in grand jury transcript

Crimes and Courts

The judge said the prosecuting attorney's office ruined the case from day one.

MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — Michael Daniel Bowman, serving 50-200 years for child sex crimes, walked out of the Marshall County Courthouse a free man Wednesday.

Mr. Bowman was just set free. His indictment case was just dismissed with prejudice which means at this point it cannot come back pending an investigation into other indictments from the July 2015 term of the Marshall County Grand Jury.

Joseph Canestraro, Prosecuting Attorney of Marshall County

Marshall County Judge David Hummel Jr. was compelled to rule this way after hearing the court-ordered transcript from the grand jury in 2015. Judge Hummel says it was the fatal flaw and misstep of day one. 

The prosecutor did not instruct the grand jury as to what the law was.

Judge David Hummel, Marshall County

How can you decide ‘probable cause’ when those terms were not defined to you? 

Even the current prosecution supported the judge’s ruling Wednesday.

I can tell you that that is not the practice of my office; not to give legal instructions on the law.

Joseph Canestraro, Prosecuting Attorney of Marshall County

Judge Hummel ruled that the former prosecuting attorney, Rhonda Wade, did not shield the July 2015 grand jury from bias. The judge referenced a dialogue transcribed between Wade and investigator at the time, Tom Westfall. Wednesday, the current prosecuting office admitted that the instruction given by Wade in 2015 was “improper.”

Now, after serving 3.5 years in prison, Bowman will be reimbursed for his $35,000 defense costs, somehow. 

“If I don’t protect his rights, I don’t protect anybody’s rights,” said Judge Hummel.

The judge said this ruling does not just open a can of worms, but Pandora’s box. 

Canestraro just took office so he now has the responsibility of looking into all the other indictments from that term. 

If it is found that in 2015 there were widespread fatal flaws in other cases, then Bowman’s case will stay with prejudice; meaning the case cannot be reopened. But Canestraro adds, “If he finds otherwise, then we may be able to bring it back and re-indict him.”

Dismissal with prejudice while under review means Bowman will not be registered as a sex offender.

The prosecution will have to do some major digging before Bowman could face another trial. 

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