Written by Devon Boen
A negligent homicide charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Charles Bowen, 47, would be an old man if he carried out the full sentence. Both the prosecutors and the defense knew their closing statements on June 6 could determine whether Bowen would put this behind him or if it would define his existence.
But he wasn’t the only one in the courtroom with a stake in the outcome. Doyle’s family had been watching the trial intently, displaying a mixture of nerves and grief.
Assistant Attorney General Dan Guzynski opened the state’s closing remarks.
“If life is sacred, then Brian Doyle’s life was sacred,” he said.
Guzynski spoke quietly and explained to the jury how Doyle was trying to make a life for himself. He told Bowen’s peers it was not their job to judge Bowen or Doyle in any capacity. It was their job to answer whether or not Bowen was responsible for Doyle’s death.
Guzynski urged the jury to remember Bowen lied several times during his taped interviews and urged them to notice how Bowen immediately started distancing himself from that night. He asked them to see how Bowen refused to pin himself at the crime scene and asked them to wonder why he refused if he was innocent.
To close out his remarks, Guzynski employed an analogy to show the importance of circumstantial evidence. He said, if a person stabs someone with a knife and then washes it, all trace evidence can be erased. He said, it doesn’t mean that person didn’t stab another person with that knife. Guzynski was alluding to the lack of trace evidence found linking Bowen’s vehicle to the crime scene or Doyle’s body. He implied it was erased by Bowen’s actions following that night like his car wash and new tires.
Public defender Cynthia Thornton made closing remarks for the defense. She approached the jury by clearly stating what facts were known about the case. She went over Bowen’s story and emphasized no trace evidence linked Bowen’s vehicle to the scene.
She explained to the jury a Wal-Mart employee testified Bowen’s tires were weather-cracked and his actions were not indicative of guilt.
Thornton then took a moment to explain reasonable doubt to the jury. She said it was the highest burden of proof in the American legal system. Reasonable doubt does not mean beyond any doubt. It simply means there cannot be any doubt that would convince a reasonable person the defendant was possibly innocent.
She asked the jury to consider the burden the state has in order to prove reasonable doubt and told them to ask themselves whether it met that burden.
At the end of a trial, the prosecution is given one last chance to speak, while the defense is not. The state employed Cochenour to wrap up its case against Charles Bowen. Cochenour came out strong. She contrasted Guzynski’s quiet demeanor with a more aggressive tone, bringing the duo’s one-two punch strategy full-circle.
Cochenour brought out a timeline to remind the jury of the facts and tie up loose ends. The timeline used hard evidence, like the Hardee’s receipt and cell phone records, to track Bowen throughout the night of Jan. 11.
In her last minutes with the jury, she worked to give Diana Nelson the credibility she needed to be their star witness. She asked the jury how Nelson could have known Doyle was most likely lying on the ground when run over or how she could have known Doyle had pulled out some of Bowen’s hair and bit him on the nose.
She asked the jury to recognize how accurately Nelson’s testimony matched the medical and scientific experts’ analysis of the crime scene. She reminded them Nelson was forced to speak against Bowen and had kept quiet for over a year.
With her final point made, the jury went into deliberation on June 6. After a short hour and a half deliberation, a verdict was returned. Bowen sat facing District Judge David Cybulski as he announced a unanimous guilty verdict. Bowen showed no reaction to the news and Doyle’s family let out sighs of relief and pent up tears.
A pre-sentence investigation will be completed and then Bowen will be sentenced. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in the department of corrections for his negligent homicide conviction.