State News

NC innocence panel reviews 2000 Buncombe killing

Posted April 28, 2011

— The attorney for a man convicted in a decade-old Buncombe County murder said Thursday that prosecutors never shared DNA evidence with him that could have cleared his client of the crime.

The case of Kenneth Manzi Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson is the fourth hearing held by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission since it was created five years ago. The commission is the only state agency in the U.S. dedicated to considering wrongful convictions.

Kagonyera and Wilcoxson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in the 2000 shooting death of Walter Rodney Bowman. Three others were convicted in the case as well.

During Thursday's hearing, statements from witnesses, including Bowman's son, were presented in which they recanted earlier testimony that Kagonyera and Wilcoxson were involved in the shooting.

Also, evidence showed that DNA found on a bandanna believed to belong to one of Bowman's killers didn't match either Kagonyera or Wilcoxson.

Sean Devereux, who represented Kagonyera in the case, testified before the commission that he urged his client to accept the plea deal offered by prosecutors because he was overloaded with other cases.

"He was very insistent that he didn't do it," Devereux said. "I think I decided early on, 'This is a no-brainer. He needs to take the deal,' and probably did not – not probably, certainly did not – spend the time (needed on the case)."

NC Innocence Commission looks at fourth case NC Innocence Commission looks at fourth case

Tests show DNA on the bandanna matched a man who was never investigated or charged in the case. Devereux said prosecutors never shared that information with him and he never asked for the results.

Kagonyera and Wilcoxson are serving 12-year prison sentences.

The hearing is expected to conclude Friday. If the commission decides to have a full hearing on the case, the matter will go before a special three-judge panel in Asheville.


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  • Lightfoot3 Apr 29, 2011

    "So, if they were not guilty, why did they plead guilty?" - carolinaprincess62

    It happens. Sometimes because of unethical behavior by the cops or DA. And sometimes because they are being threatened with something else, like the death penalty. I'm not saying these guys are innocent, but I do know that innocent people sometimes plead guilty.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 28, 2011

    tarheel4life, I tried to answer your question. But GOLO blocks my posts periodically. (sometimes understandable, and other times confusingly not) That's all I'll say or this probably will get blocked also. Probably will anyway.

  • artist Apr 28, 2011

    I am surprised that these "commissions" ever use the "confession" of another criminal who is already locked up.

    Prisoners who have very little chance of ever getting out gladly confess to another person's crimes. And why?

    The (guilty) criminal who is freed, now takes on the responsibility of looking after the family of the convict who is never going to get out.

    Using any convicted criminals confession is dumb. These guys get their stories and details together... then call the "commission" and get them foaming at the mouth.

  • Jim Britt Apr 28, 2011

    "I replied: So you don't think they actually free some innocent people? Or are you saying everyone who gets convicted of murder in court is 100% guilty?" - Yes. The government is ALWAYS right when it accuses someone; ALWAYS. And, even if the government were ever wrong, which it isn't, better ten innocent die than one guilty go free (unless one of the innocent is me naturally).

  • jurydoc Apr 28, 2011

    Actually by the end of 2010 the Innocence Inquiry Commission has only issued ONE exoneration. They have received 850 claims of actual innocence and only 3 of those were sent to hearing since their creation. And the vast majority of those were NOT for murder convictions. See here for data So the perception that there are guilty murderers being freed willy nilly to assuage the guilt of the liberals is laughable.

  • tarheel4life Apr 28, 2011

    Deathrow-pain-whatever- You didn't answer my questions. I assure you they're not THAT difficult, give it a try big guy.

    You Said:
    "So this North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission is really nothing more than a politically correct organization trying to soothe the nerves of the liberals. That about all they accomplish, compared to the load of work"

    I replied:
    So you don't think they actually free some innocent people? Or are you saying everyone who gets convicted of murder in court is 100% guilty?

    You said:


  • jurydoc Apr 28, 2011

    DeathRow - it is the specific mission of the Innocence Commission to review NEW evidence of ACTUAL innocence that has emerged since the conviction. You are simply wrong that they "discredit evidence" and "gets a TRUE murderer's conviction overturned." They were created by the legislature to investigate cases where new evidence of complete factual innocence has emerged since conviction. They do not review technical or procedural trial errors. The Commission is made up of eight members selected by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the Chief Judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The members include a Superior Court Judge, a Prosecuting Attorney, a Defense Attorney, a Victim Advocate, a Member of the Public, a Sheriff, and two Discretionary members. Not exactly "pushovers" for considering evidence.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Apr 28, 2011

    jurydoc: "Given the fact that they are "freed" based on a finding of actual innocence."

    I have to disagree that ALL of these criminals are found 'innocent'. Many of these convictions are repealed because they are able to discredit evidence used to convict. That's VERY different than saying they were definitely innocent. As I said earlier, I believe some were guilty, it just wasn't proved. I'm not convinced that Greg Taylor is innocent. They just got evidence thrown out.

  • americancitizen27 Apr 28, 2011

    If these attorneys were genuinely concerned, then the delay in time it has taken them accomplish their alleged goals would not be. In fact, and I can willingly testify that the office of the State Attorney General is excessively corrupt and this has trickled down to the local police and sheriff departments.

    This state is in trouble for a wide variety of heinous crimes it carried out against innocent persons because of politics or motives that were beyond the scope of that person so harmed.

    As long as the federal government fails to protect these citizens from that deliberate and wantonness of crimes, Roy Cooper and his unlawfully acting officers will go free to hurt again.

    This man should be in prison, as should many, many subordinate officers throughout the State of North Carolina that by Respondeat Superior doctrine of the law - he is ultimately responsible for all of their conduct.

  • andy2 Apr 28, 2011

    Click to view my profile DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT - I think your rational is closed minded and is the prime reason the innocence project is in place. Greg Taylor spent 17 years in prison and was later exonerated not just set free. I am not so naive to believe he is not guilty of something. But not murder. using your rational he would have been executed years ago.