Bowman v. Stirling

Decision Date16 August 2022
Docket Number20-12
Citation45 F.4th 740
Parties Marion BOWMAN, Jr., Petitioner – Appellant, v. Bryan P. STIRLING, Commissioner, South Carolina Department of Corrections; Lydell Chestnut, Deputy Warden of Broad River Correctional Secure Facility, Respondents – Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

ARGUED: Teresa L. Norris, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant. William Joseph Maye, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF SOUTH CAROLINA, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: Lindsey S. Vann, Megan E. Barnes, JUSTICE 360, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellant. Alan Wilson, Attorney General, Donald J. Zelenka, Deputy Attorney General, Melody J. Brown, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF SOUTH CAROLINA, Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellees.

Before NIEMEYER, AGEE, and RUSHING, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Rushing wrote the opinion, in which Judge Niemeyer and Judge Agee joined.

RUSHING, Circuit Judge:

When the prosecution suppresses favorable evidence material to a defendant's guilt or punishment, it violates the constitutional guarantee of due process. See Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). Evidence is "material" when "there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceedings would have been different." United States v. Bagley , 473 U.S. 667, 682, 105 S.Ct. 3375, 87 L.Ed.2d 481 (1985). Materiality is evaluated "in the context of the entire record." Turner v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S. Ct. 1885, 1893, 198 L.Ed.2d 443 (2017) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Marion Bowman was convicted of murdering Kandee Martin and sentenced to death. During his state post-conviction relief (PCR) and federal habeas proceedings, Bowman argued that the State of South Carolina's failure to produce three pieces of evidence violated his due process rights because he could have used that evidence to impeach prosecution witnesses. Considering the entire record and the overwhelming evidence of Bowman's guilt, every court to address this argument has deemed the undisclosed evidence not material. We agree.


We begin with an overview of the evidence presented during the guilt and penalty phases of Bowman's trial. Then we summarize the state post-conviction and federal habeas proceedings to date.

A. Guilt Phase

Early in the morning on February 17, 2001, firefighters were called to the scene of a car fire. After extinguishing the flames, officers discovered Martin's body in the trunk. An autopsy revealed that Martin had been shot to death before being placed in the trunk. Later that day, officers arrested Bowman. The State charged Bowman with murder and notified him of its intent to seek the death penalty.

1. Bowman's Gun Before the Murder

At trial, the State put on evidence that Bowman possessed a gun of the same make and model as the murder weapon on February 16, 2001, the day of the murder. Two witnesses—Travis Felder and Bowman's cousin James Taiwan Gadson—testified that Bowman had purchased a Hi-Point .380 semi-automatic pistol roughly two weeks earlier. On the morning of the murder, Gadson saw Bowman walking out of his house with a limp. Bowman explained to Gadson that he had the gun in his pants and it was cold against his leg. Throughout the day, a group of people—including Bowman—gathered in William Koger's yard to drink and socialize. Koger, Gadson, Joseph Fogle, and Bowman's cousin Hiram Johnson testified that Bowman placed his gun in a burn barrel for safekeeping while he ran an errand. When he returned, the gun was gone, and Bowman accused Gadson of stealing it. Johnson and Gadson testified that, before the altercation escalated, Johnson admitted that he had removed the gun, and Bowman reclaimed it. Johnson observed Bowman place the gun back in his pants as he left Koger's. Bowman's cousin Katrina West testified that Bowman had a gun with him later that afternoon.

2. Bowman's Comments About Martin Before the Murder

Several witnesses recounted comments Bowman made about Martin on the day she was murdered. Fogle testified that he gave Bowman a ride from Koger's house. Around that time, Bowman told Fogle that Martin owed him money.

That afternoon, Bowman rode to a pharmacy with his sister Yolanda and West. On their way to the pharmacy, Bowman saw Martin parked in front of a house talking to a group of individuals, including Edward Waters. Bowman had Yolanda stop the car so he could speak with Martin. Yolanda testified that Bowman said Martin owed him money and "I want my money today." J.A. 104. Yolanda and West testified that Bowman attempted to get Martin's attention, but Martin "held up her finger saying wait a minute." J.A. 98. According to Yolanda, Bowman responded, "Fuck it.... That bitch be dead by dark." J.A. 99. West testified that Bowman said, "Fuck that ride. That bitch will be dead dark fall." J.A. 121. Waters testified that Bowman said, "Fuck waiting a minute" and "I'm about to kill this bitch." J.A. 81.

3. Gadson's Eyewitness Account of the Murder

Gadson gave an eyewitness account of the murder. He testified that, around 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., Martin drove up to Koger's house with Bowman. Bowman told Gadson, who had been drinking most of the afternoon, to get in the car. Bowman then directed Martin to make various turns until the trio reached a remote location on Nursery Road. When they arrived, Gadson and Bowman exited the car. As they walked away from the vehicle, Bowman told Gadson that he was going to kill Martin because she was wearing a wire.

Gadson testified that Martin got out of the car, walked down the road, grabbed Bowman by the arm, and told him she was scared. Around that time, a car drove by, and the three hid in the woods.1 When they emerged, Martin walked toward her car and Bowman followed behind her. Gadson then heard three gunshots and saw three muzzle flashes. Martin ran toward Gadson and turned to face Bowman. Gadson testified that Martin said, " ‘Please, ... don't shoot me no more, I have a child to take care of.’ " J.A. 366. Bowman shot Martin twice more, and she fell to the ground. Gadson "messed in [his] pants" and jumped in the car. J.A. 368. Bowman, meanwhile, dragged Martin's body into the woods by her feet. A vaginal swab of Martin's body indicated the presence of male DNA consistent with Bowman's.

When Bowman returned to the car, he told Gadson "I shot that B in the head, heard her head hit the ground." J.A. 368. Bowman then drove Martin's car back into town. Gadson testified that Bowman threatened to "blow [his] brains out" if he told anyone what he had seen. J.A. 370.

4. Bowman's Confessions and Conduct After the Murder

Several witnesses gave an account of Bowman's actions immediately following the murder. Gadson testified that he returned to Koger's house and saw Bowman and Johnson driving Yolanda's car. Johnson corroborated this account, testifying that Bowman asked him to "go downtown." J.A. 416. James J. Gadson (James)—Gadson's father and Bowman's uncle—testified that Bowman and Johnson drove up to him. Bowman gave James ten dollars and asked him to purchase four pairs of gloves. James and Johnson both testified that James did so and gave the gloves to Bowman.

Around midnight, Bowman, Gadson, Johnson, and Darian Williams drove to a club outside of town in Martin's car. Johnson testified that, when they first entered the car, Bowman told Johnson that he had stolen the vehicle. Bowman drove and distributed the gloves for the passengers to wear while in the vehicle. Gadson testified that he and Williams went into the club while Bowman and Johnson remained outside.2 Several individuals, including Travis Felder, Keith Rivers, and Valorna Smith, verified that they observed Bowman at the club. Johnson testified that Bowman walked around the parking lot trying to sell Martin's car. Smith testified that, when she exited the club, she saw that Bowman had a pistol in his pocket.

A few hours later, having not succeeded in selling Martin's car, Bowman drove Gadson, Johnson, and Williams back to town. Johnson testified that, during their drive, Bowman said, "I killed Kandee, heh, heh, heh." J.A. 423.3 He observed that Bowman had a gun in his lap.

The State also presented eyewitness testimony that, after his unsuccessful attempt to sell Martin's vehicle, Bowman disposed of it and Martin's body. Felder testified that after returning from the club he was with Smith and Carolyn Brown at Smith's apartment. Brown and Felder testified that Bowman arrived sometime after 3:00 a.m. Felder testified that Bowman asked for help parking a car. Felder followed Bowman, who drove Martin's car to Nursery Road—the same location where, according to Gadson, Bowman had killed Martin and hidden her body. When the two arrived, Bowman entered the woods and returned a few minutes later, dragging Martin's body facedown by her feet. Felder watched Bowman tuck a Hi-Point .380 into his waist before placing Martin's body into the trunk of her car. Bowman turned to Felder and said, "You didn't think I'd do it." J.A. 453. Felder asked, "Did what?" J.A. 453. Bowman replied, "I killed Kandee Martin." J.A. 453.

Felder testified that Bowman then drove Martin's car into a field, parked it, and lit it on fire. Bowman climbed into Felder's car, and Felder told him, "I don't want nothing to do with this." J.A. 455. Felder testified that Bowman responded, "I ain't get you involved with it, don't worry about it, everything is taken care of." J.A. 455–456. Felder dropped Bowman off at home. Felder recalled the events taking between 30 and 40 minutes, but Smith and Brown testified that Felder was gone for 10 to 20 minutes.4

5. Bowman's Arrest

Later in the day on February 17 after the burning car was discovered, officers went to Bowman's house to arrest him. According to one officer, the...

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