A Travis County jury handed down a rare not-guilty verdict in a murder trial this week, clearing Terry Stowers in a 2014 shooting in East Austin.
Stowers, 28, testified that he was sleeping on the night of Nov. 25, 2014, when two masked men broke into a home at Walnut Creek Apartments and shot LeQuince Tomlin in an apparent robbery attempt. A co-defendant in the case, Allen Townsend, is serving 20 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of Tomlin’s murder in June.
Stowers’ case is the first acquittal in a Travis County murder trial since October 2016 and the second since August 2011.
Prosecutors said they believe Stowers was the trigger man but acknowledged flaws in their case, such as a lack of DNA evidence and no reliable witness testimony.
Conversely, they built their case against Townsend on testimony from witnesses who said he had requested a gun and a bandana from participants at a dice game on the evening of the shooting.
“It was a difficult case,” prosecutor Guillermo Gonzalez said. “We’re going to try homicides with difficult facts, if necessary, and let the jury take a look.”
Jurors deliberated for about 11 hours into Wednesday afternoon before finding Stowers not guilty of capital murder and not guilty of a lesser charge of murder. He faced an automatic life sentence on the capital charge.
Stowers admitted on the witness stand that he had lied to police investigators when he said he had been with his grandmother at the time of the shooting. Truthfully, he said, he was sleeping on the couch in another unit at the apartment complex when he heard gunshots.
His attorney, Steve Brittain, made the point in closing arguments that Stowers initially misled investigators out of a distrust for police.
Brittain, who was assisted by Allan Williams, said Stowers professed his innocence from day one and rejected multiple plea offers ahead of trial.
“We felt like from the first time we met him that there was something there,” Brittain said. “We’ve done a lot of these. … I think it was a weak case for the state, and they did what they could do with their evidence.”