Isaiah Fowler’s parents were not vocal with their opinions during the 2015 trial of their son, who is now 17 and set to be retried on June 19 in the case of the stabbing death of his 8-year-old sister at their family’s Valley Springs home.
This time, they say, they won’t be silent.
“We sat and listened and made our own determination about the evidence presented. There’s absolutely no way he did it,” said stepmother Crystal Fowler after a hearing in the Calaveras County Superior Court on Friday afternoon.
“I hope he gets a fair shake this time because he didn’t last time. Getting justice for Isaiah is the first step for getting justice for Leila.”
Approximately 10 members of Isaiah Fowler’s family attended the hearing Friday, and each of them looked toward the boy as he was led out of jail holding by a uniformed probation officer.
Isaiah Fowler, who was not handcuffed, wore a gray shirt and blue jeans, had his hair tied and wrapped into a ponytail, and sported trimmed, groomed facial hair. He briefly smiled and acknowledged his family as he was led to his seat next to lawyer Mark Reichel.
Reichel said the defense and District Attorney’s Office was in the process of reviewing more than 2,700 pages of testimony from Isaiah Fowler’s previous trial to determine what evidence would be admissible in court.
His conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel from the California 3rd District Court of Appeal on Feb. 22, which determined the juvenile court had inappropriately relied on statements made by Isaiah Fowler over the course of four interviews with Calaveras County Sheriff and FBI officials.
The appellate court said Isaiah Fowler was not adequately advised of his Miranda rights, and his father’s participation in the interviews could have contributed to inconsistent statements the judge used as the basis for the guilty verdict.
Reichel said the statements had been “coercive” and “illegally obtained” and that information would be stricken from the court record in the upcoming trial.
“We believe a different fact finder won’t find him guilty,” he said.
Judge Thomas A. Smith found Isaiah Fowler guilty of second degree murder on Oct. 6, 2015, following a 17-day trial. Fowler was sentenced about a month later to remain in custody until he was 23.
“This case is essentially an argument,” Reichel said.
Reichel said he did not anticipate that the review of the documents would lead to a continuance of the June 19 trial date. The trial would be largely focused on witness testimony transcribed during the previous trial, with very few, if any, witnesses being called to the stand. Witnesses would not be recalled to re-testify, he said.
Reichel said he was not sure if Isaiah Fowler would be called to testify during the trial, which is expected to last less than a week.
Reichel reinforced the main defense arguments of the case: that Isaiah Fowler was not found to have any blood on him following a very bloody murder and that he passed a rigorous polygraph test at the age of 15.
“He’s innocent. Trust me, there’s no way he could have done it,” Reichel said.
Isaiah Fowler was 12 when his sister Leila Fowler was murdered on April 27, 2013. He said he heard an intruder while he was in another room.
Isaiah Fowler’s father, Barney Fowler, and Crystal Fowler, who was then Barney Fowler’s girlfriend and used the surname Walters, called 911 after receiving a call from Isaiah, who claimed he chased a 6-foot-tall man with a muscular build and shoulder-length gray hair out of the house.
Leila Fowler was taken by ambulance to Mark Twain Medical Center in San Andreas, where she was pronounced dead. Leila Fowler was stabbed more than 20 times.
Reichel said Leila struggled to save herself and was braced against the wall, on the second bunk of a child’s bunk bed, when she was murdered. There was no conceivable way for Isaiah Fowler to reach her without being on the bed, he said, and even more inconceivable that he did not have any blood on him after the arrival of deputies at about noon on April 27, 2013.
No bloody clothes were ever found, he said, and Isaiah Fowler did not appear to have cleaned himself before the deputies had arrived.
Reichel also referenced the closing arguments of the previous trial, and noted that the District Attorney’s Office cited Leila’s time of death at about 10:30 a.m., or moments after she had made a phone call to Crystal to tell her that she was bored.
Barney and Crystal Fowler were at a Little League game a short ways away at the time of the murder.
Leila was not declared dead until she was inside an ambulance after noon, he said, and the injuries she sustained from the stabbing would have meant near immediate death, not surviving for more than an hour and a half.
Crystal Fowler said that DNA found at the crime scene as well as fingerprints had not been tested by investigators, and she hoped that those tests could be performed to identify who the true killer was.
“Unknown DNA to me is reasonable doubt,” she said.
Isaiah and Leila Fowler’s mother Priscilla Rodriguez had been present at many days of the previous trial, but was not present on Friday. Barney Fowler had full custody of the children and Crystal Fowler had developed a close relationship to each child as a stepmother, he said.
On Friday at the Calaveras County Superior Court, Judge Susan Harlan scheduled another pretrial conference for May 31 at 1:30 p.m. for a further update on the review of the testimony from the previous trial.
The attorneys were still working on an agreement about how to present the case, and it was possible that there would be no live testimony, she said.
Reichel requested that Isaiah Fowler not be present at the May 31 court hearing.
“That’s your request?” Harlan said to Isaiah Fowler.
“Yes,” Fowler said, and nodded.
Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook and Deputy District Attorney Dana Pfeil were present at the hearing for the prosecution.