On January 23, 2018 oral arguments for the appeal filed by the defense in the Leila Fowler murder case were heard by the Appeals Panel for the 3rd Judicial District of California.
On January 26, 2018 I drafted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FBI for the contents of their investigation filed in Leila Fowler murder case. As the people of Valley Springs will recall, the FBI was all over this case, interviewing neighbors, interrogating Isiah Fowler, mowing and searching the area behind the scene of the crime and analyzing the call made to Isiah by the 911 operator.
The defense team of Mark Reichel and Steve Plesser repeatedly requested the contents of the FBI as part of discovery and were told by the prosecution there was nothing to provide. The defense was particularly interested in the interview summary of a particular individual who refused to talk with the defense. This person emphatically told us that we could read what he told the FBI. That person remains unaccounted for at the time of the murder. This person’s identity will remain as Witness X for the time being.
In my FOIA request, I asked for the contents of the file generally and more specifically for a list of persons interviewed and the summaries of those interviews. I also asked specifically for anything dealing with Witness X.
Much to my amazement, on 2/15/18 I received a letter from the FBI in Winchester, VA. This letter was postmarked 2/12/18, but was actually dated 2/15/18. That did seem rather odd. What did not seem odd is that the request for information regarding Witness X was specifically rejected based upon a variety of third party exemptions. Therefore, Witness X remains unaccounted for at the time of the murder. It should be noted that the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department was made aware of this person being unaccounted for by at least two other witnesses and they never contacted Witness X, or if they did, there is no record of Witness X in the files presented as part of their discovery.
On 2/20/18 I found a second letter from the same FBI office in my PO Box. This letter rejected my FOIA request for the Fowler investigation file in general. It again cited third party exemptions as the reason.
The people of Valley Springs know full well that the FBI worked this case, but the defense has consistently been denied access to investigation details from FBI files. We will continue to pursue this information, but in the meantime the community impacted by this crime deserves to know that the information culled from their interviews continues to be kept from the defense.
If the appeal heard by the Appellate Court for the 3rd district is favorable to the defense and the case is remanded, we will continue to pursue this information in general and as to Witness X in particular.