Questions remained after his conviction for killing two cops in 2004;Michigan media reviving calls for death penalty
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – “I am truly sorry,” Eric Lee Marshall allegedly told detectives after the killings of Detroit police officers Matthew Bowens and Jennifer Fettig in 2004. ‘We are going to suffer, but I am going to suffer a whole lot more.”
He was referring to the families of Bowens and Fettig, but never actually admitted he killed the officers.
That statement, written out by a detective, accurately foretold the six years Marshall spent in Michigan prisons before his death on Oct. 15, 2010, at the age of 29. His trial attorney Kerry Jackson said Marshall died at Detroit Receiving Hospital after surgery the day before, and that he was removed from life support without his family’s consent.
Brief local news reports claimed Marshall died of “heart failure.”
“Eric was moved to Mound Road Prison [in Detroit] in June,” Jackson said. “While he was incarcerated up north, according to his sister and dad, he had a kidney and part of his liver removed, and had to go on dialysis. In Mound, he told his brother that he was being poisoned, and that he knew he was going to die. That week, he needed to have emergency surgery and was sent to Receiving. When his dad went to see him at Mound, they did not tell him Eric was at the hospital.”
Marlin said Marshall was admitted to Receiving Oct. 13. Marshall was sentenced to life without parole and was in Marquette Prison in the upper peninsula for a time, according to Marlin. He was admitted to the prison hospital while he was there.
Marquette is close to Fettig’s home town of Petoskey in the northern lower peninsula.
At Marshall’s funeral Oct. 25, a prison minister said he visited Marshall in Marquette and the two became close. But, he said, when he called the prison to notify them he was coming back for another visit, he was told Marshall was sick.
“Eric is above all that now,” he told Marshall’s father, sisters, brother and other grieving family members in an effort to comfort them. “This is only a shell you are putting in the ground. I loved Eric. I told him he was one of my baby brothers, and now he is alive and well in the Lord.”
Jackson said he noticed that Marshall had numerous scars and scratches on his face, and wondered whether he had been beaten in prison.
Marlin said Marshall was shipped around to many other correctional facilities, including Muskegon, Munising, Adrian, two stints in Ionia, and St. Louis. He said he had been in and out of prison hospitals, including the one at Jackson Prison. His final assignment was to Mound, a low-security facility that a “cop killer” never would have been assigned to. Asked why Marshall was in Level II security, he claimed that custody levels routinely go up and down.
Jackson said that since Marshall was severely weakened after years of prison medical “treatment,” he presented no threat to anyone.
Marlin said it is prison policy for an autopsy to be performed on anyone in custody. He said Marshall would have been taken to the Wayne County Medical Examiner after his death at Receiving. This paper submitted a freedom of information act request to the WCME on Oct. 15 for Marshall’s autopsy report.
Jackson said Marshall was recently pursuing an appeal of his case. According to the state appellate assignment office, his appeals attorney is Mitchell Foster. Foster had not returned a call for comment before this article went to press.
But meanwhile, various news outlets have revived a call for the institution of the death penalty in Michigan, the first state to outlaw it in 1857. The killing of Detroit police officer Brian Huff in May and the beating death of four-year-old Dominick Calhoun in the upper peninsula caused reporters to call James Bowens, Bowens’ father
Bowens led an unsuccessful effort to put the death penalty on the ballot in 2004.
“I always felt myself, you know, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth,” he told Detroit’s Fox 2 reporter Amy Lange in June. “Put it on the ballot. Let the people of Michigan speak their mind. We are entitled to that. We’re the ones whose families get killed and murdered on the street and have no remorse (sic).”
He told NBC 25 news about Calhoun’s death, “Let the people of Michigan decide what they want to do. Why should 50 or 60 people decide for all of us what we want?”
A vicious media blitz surrounded the shooting deaths of Bowen’s son and Fettig in 2004. Marshall was subjected to a “perp walk” during which he expressed sorrow for their families, which the media interpreted as an admission of guilt.
Despite Marshall’s conviction by a jury with only three Blacks, numerous questions were never answered during his trial, which this reporter covered.
The first question was whether he was mentally competent to stand trial. Marshall had been severely depressed since the death of his mother the previous year, and had been acting strangely, according to classmates at Wayne County Community College.
A psychiatrist who interviewed him at the state’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry said Marshall curled up in a fetal position under the table during some of the interviews.
The only eyewitness who identified Marshall at his trial was a young prostitute who said Marshall had stopped her around the corner from where the officers were killed.
She wept on the stand when asked whether she saw him at the officers’ car around the corner before they were shot to death.
Marshall told her, “Don’t cry, baby, it’s OK.” She then asked Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Elizabeth Walker what she should say. Walker told her, “Just tell the truth.”
Jackson said that cigarette butts found at the scene of the officers’ killing had the DNA of another individual on them, not Marshall’s. The police car videotape and testimony from a couple who drove up on the scene after the shooting indicated that a second car, not a pick-up like Marshall’s, drove away from the scene afterwards.
Additionally, Fettig previously testified in a case involving veteran Detroit police officer Robert Feld, who had been accused of numerous acts of brutality during his long tenure with the department. She was his partner in the incident that ended his career, the beating of a Latino motorist that was captured on their police car videotape.
Questions were raised regarding why she and Bowens, another white rookie from suburban Lincoln Park, were partnered on the day they were shot to death, instead of having one experienced officer in the car.
“The real shame is that their rush to judgment and improper police tactics have resulted in the wrong man being charged,” attorney Jackson said at the time. “My question is . . . . where is the real shooter?”