State Trooper indicted

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jimmy Fowler to turn himself in today



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MARION &045; A Perry County grand jury returned a murder indictment Wednesday against James Bonard Fowler, a former state trooper, in connection with the 1965 shooting death of Jimmie Lee Jackson.

Fowler, 73, admitted in a 2005 interview, he was the one who shot the 26-year-old during a protest troopers were dispatched to disperse the night of Feb. 18, 1965. District Attorney Michael Jackson, who was two years old at the time, emerged from the grand jury room shortly after 11 a.m. with a brief statement to members of the media.

A native of Sumter County, who was raised in Atlanta, Jackson is no relation to Jimmie Lee. The case was reopened in 2006.

A warrant for Fowler’s arrest was issued Wednesday afternoon. Fowler’s Montgomery attorney, George L. Beck, said he has arranged to have his client turn himself in to the Perry County Sheriff’s Department today. He will be booked in the county jail &045; the same jail that housed James Orange the night protesters sought to prevent him from being lynched. Fowler will be placed on $250,000 bond, according to the indictment.

Beck, accompanied by attorney Terrie Biggs, described Fowler as &8220;a highly decorated Vietnam veteran&8221; who was awarded two Silver Stars and several commendations for his service in the military.

The defense team said their client was &8220;in fairly good health,&8221; and would be filing a number of motions for the court to consider. One may be for a change of venue.

Beck, who once served as deputy attorney general under Bill Baxley, helped prosecute Robert &8220;Dynamite Bob&8221; Chambliss in 1977 for his role in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four little girls. Beck said the difference now is he doesn’t have the power of the State of Alabama behind him, or the community.

Fowler will return to Marion for booking, a place he told The Selma Times-Journal he hasn’t been since the night Jimmie Lee was shot. He admitted during an interview that he did not intend to shoot Jimmie Lee, who witnesses said was trying to help his 82-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, who was being beaten by state troopers inside Mack’s Caf.

Troopers reportedly unleashed batons on marchers leaving Zion Methodist Church headed over to surround the jail where activist James Orange and a group of protesters were being held. Organizers said the late Albert Turner Sr. learned deputies reportedly planned to turn Orange over to a group of men who told him they were going to kill him.

Witnesses gave accounts of troopers shooting out streetlights and knocking out light bulbs as they attacked demonstrators. The death of Jimmie Lee angered civil rights activists who suggested marching to Montgomery and placing Jimmie Lee’s body on the steps of the capitol. Orange said those discussions gave rise to the Selma-to-Montgomery march.