Saturday, March 7, 2015
I Was one of the State Police Officers in Selma's Bloody Sunday March - Former Alabama state trooper James Fowler freed in civil rights killing
By The Associated Press
on July 07, 2011 at 10:51 AM, updated July 07, 2011 at 3:51 PM
District Attorney Michael Jackson, the chief prosecutor in Perry County, said federal authorities are still investigating ex-trooper James Bonard Fowler in the fatal shooting of a motorist in suburban Birmingham in 1966.
Fowler, 77, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter last year in the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot to death in Marion. Originally charged with murder in 2007, Fowler claimed he fired only after the man threatened him with a bottle.
Court records in the Jackson case show Fowler fatally shot Nathan Johnson in the Shelby County city of Alabaster on May 8, 1966. In that case, Fowler claimed he fired because Johnson tried to assault him with a billy club after being arrested during a traffic stop.
FBI spokesmen didn't immediately return calls seeking comment on the Johnson shooting, but the Perry County DA said agents had been in contact with him about the case, which was on a list of "cold cases" from the civil rights era that the FBI said it was reviewing.
"The Department of Justice is looking into that shooting," said Jackson.
Fowler's defense lawyer, George Beck, was sworn in this week as the chief federal prosecutor in Montgomery, and an attorney who assisted Beck did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The daughter of Jimmie Lee Jackson said she would like to see additional charges filed against Fowler.
"I feel like he should have had more time than just six months," said Cordelia Billingsley. "But I forgive him. I have to for my own life to be able to go on."
A judge in Perry County sentenced Fowler to six months in jail in November, and Geneva County officials agreed to let him serve the time there to be nearer his family.
Fowler was due to finish serving his sentence in mid-May, but Geneva Sheriff Greg Ward said the man had health problems that required surgery so Ward made the decision to free Fowler from custody on April 14. Fowler had an operation about two weeks later and his lawyers reported on his condition, but Ward said the former trooper wasn't required to report back to jail.
"I have to follow the recommendations of the doctors and nurses on this kind of thing," said Ward. "He was sick the whole time he was here."
Billingsley said she doesn't know whether federal authorities are still reviewing the death of her father, but she'd like to see additional investigation of his slaying.
"I still think more should be done," she said.
Witnesses said Jackson was trying to protect his mother and grandfather, who had been clubbed in a restaurant after a protest march turned chaotic on Feb. 18, 1965 in Marion. Fowler said he fired in self-defense.
Perry County prosecutors wanted to use evidence from the Shelby County shooting during Fowler's trial in the Jimmie Lee Jackson shooting, but those plans were cast aside after Fowler pleaded guilty.
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