Home     |     Search     |     Site Map     |     Links     |     Contact IJP     
  the International Justice Project
Project Overview
Execution Calendar
Foreign Nationals
Mental Retardation

Current Cases
Past Cases
International Instruments
Mental Illness
Brief Bank, General Resources & Statistics
Training & Events

Thomas Clyde Bowling

Mental Retardation
Execution Date: Granted Stay of Execution

Case Overview

Thomas Clyde Bowling Photo

Thomas Bowling, 51, was convicted and sentenced to death for the April 9, 1990, murders of Tina and Eddie Earley. The Earley's were shot dead outside their small dry-cleaning business in the city of Lexington, Kentucky. Thomas Bowling was arrested on April 11, in neighboring Tennessee. His car and a .357 calibre handgun were found hidden at his family's home in rural Kentucky.

Bowling's attorneys are currently pursuing appeals and clemency on the grounds of potential innocence and mental retardation.

Mental Retardation

Bowling was assessed at the age of 12 - 13 to have an IQ of 74, which given the margin of error, places him within the range for mental retardation. In addition, he has an extensive documented history of adaptive deficits, being described as a ''follower'' and easily manipulated. Throughout school, his parents had to lay his clothes out for him and ensure that he bathed and maintained personal hygiene.

Bowling also was a slow learner throughout school. He had a low I.Q. and spent 3 years in the ninth grade. Despite working hard, Bowling even failed health class three years in a row. His neighbours and teachers remember Bowling as a nice child who just needed extra help and special education.


Bowling's lawyers have also raised evidence that he is innocent. The evidence against him is purely circumstantial. There was no physical evidence placing him at the scene of the crime; an eye-witness failed to identify him; ballistics experts admitted the weapon linked to him was one of millions that could have been used in the crime; and while the car used in the crime was his, there was no proof that he was driving it at the time. Further, the state did not establish a motive for Thomas Bowling to kill the Earley couple, whom he did not know and had never met. Instead the lawyers assert, a local family murdered the Ealey's.

According to the petition and accompanying police reports, Eddie Earley told police about a local Lexington family's alleged drug activity, which resulted in an arrest. The family then retaliated against the Earleys by shooting Tina, Ed and their then 2-year-old son outside their dry-cleaning business. The son was shot in the foot but later recovered. His lawyers argue that the family apparently used Bowling's vehicle in the murder and helped Bowling obtain the gun that police believe was used in the murder, his lawyers say. On the day of the murders, Bowling was intoxicated and states that he can not remember anything of that day. Apparently, however, he was told by members of the above family later that afternoon to take his car out of town. Bowling complied, the petition stated.

Governor Fletcher and Medical Ethics

According to Amnesty International, the Governor's legal counsel reportedly issued a statement refuting claims that Governor Fletcher, who is a doctor, was violating the American Medical Association's (AMA) guidelines or ethical standards by signing the death warrant. The AMA's guidelines open by stating that "an individual's opinion on capital punishment is the personal moral decision of the individual. A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution." After Governor Fletcher signed the death warrant, his legal counsel was quoted as saying: "By signing a death warrant, in no way is Governor Ernie Fletcher participating in the conduct of an execution".