Cedric Cowan sentencing

Cedric Cowan leaves the Morgan County Courthouse on Thursday after being sentenced to life without parole on capital murder convictions. [MARIAN ACCARDI/DECATUR DAILY]

Cedric Cowan, convicted of capital murder for his involvement in a series of Decatur crimes in May 2015 that left two people shot dead, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cowan, 21, is the last of four defendants sentenced in the case.

“Maybe my family can get some peace now,” said Perry Davis, the father of one of the murder victims after the sentence was handed down by Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell, who presided over the cases of all four defendants involved in the crime rampage.

Cowan, who was 16 at the time of the three-day string of crimes, also received 20-year sentences, to run concurrently, for each of five first-degree robbery counts and a 15-year sentence, to run concurrently with the other sentences, for shooting into an occupied dwelling.

“The court is satisfied that the capital crimes committed by the defendant did not result from transient immaturity but rather that those crimes resulted from the defendant’s permanent incorrigibility and as a predictable part of the troubled path he started years ago when he began breaking rules, disregarding laws and committing crimes,” Howell said Thursday, reading from her sentencing order.

Howell said Cowan has 42 days to submit a written notice of appeal.

A Morgan County jury in November found Cowan guilty of the crimes. After hearing defense testimony on Aug. 7 from a pediatric neuropsychologist and Cowan’s parents during a day-long sentencing hearing, Howell continued the sentencing until Aug. 20 to review testimony and defense and prosecution arguments. The sentencing was then continued until Thursday.

While convicted of three counts of capital murder based on various legal grounds, Cowan and three other defendants, including his older brother, Joseph Cowan, were charged with the fatal shootings of two men: Joshua Davis, 25, at Wilson Morgan Park and Antonio Hernandez-Lopez, 27, in the carport of an Albert Street home.


'I can start to heal'

“I’m just glad it’s over with for now, for (Joshua Davis) and Antonio Hernandez,” a tearful Renee Davis, the mother of Joshua Davis, said outside the courtroom after the sentencing. Joshua Davis’ body was found at the park the morning of May 16, 2015. “Now maybe I can start to heal a little bit, and my whole family.”

Renee Davis wore a T-shirt that displays her son’s face and the words: “Justice for Josh.”

“He can rest now,” she said.

“It’s rough on everybody,” Perry Davis said. “I pray nothing like this happens again for any family."

The Cowan brothers’ parents “lost two sons,” though they will be able to visit their children, he said.

District Attorney Scott Anderson said he believes life without parole is “a proper and just sentence in this case considering the circumstances of the crimes he committed. I’m glad we can finally put this case to rest for the families of all the victims.”

Defense attorney Carl Cole couldn’t be reached for comment after the sentencing.

At the Aug. 7 sentencing hearing, Cole and Cedric Cowan’s other attorney, Brent Burney, and prosecutors with the Morgan County District Attorney’s Office presented their cases over whether Cowan should receive a sentence of life without the possibility of parole or life with the possibility of parole.

The Alabama Supreme Court, in a 2013 decision, set out 14 factors for a judge to consider in determining whether to sentence a juvenile convicted of a capital crime to life with or without the possibility of parole. Those factors include the juvenile’s age at the time of the offense, and immaturity and failure to appreciate risks and consequences, the circumstances of the offense, the extent of the juvenile’s participation in the crime and the juvenile’s family, home and neighborhood environment.


Judge's reasoning

Reading from the sentencing order, Howell said “the evidence is undisputed” that Cowan was one of two co-defendants who came up with the idea to commit the robberies.

“He was also one of only two co-defendants who were armed,” she said. “After committing armed robbery and other crimes, the defendant had a whole day to reflect on his crimes. Even so, the defendant re-joined the group on May 15, 2015, to resume the crime spree that they began on May 13, 2015.

“The crime spree left a home destroyed from shooting, multiple robbery victims, and two men dead.”

The judge said she balanced the factors for and against granting the possibility of parole.

“All of the foregoing factors having been evaluated, weighed and considered. It is the court’s determination that the factors that support a sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole are outweighed by those factors that support a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” she said.

In September 2019, Joseph Cowan, 26, pleaded guilty to the fatal shootings and robberies, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, for each of three capital murder counts, with those sentences to run concurrently. He received 25-year sentences, to run concurrently with the other sentences, for each of four counts of robbery; and a 15-year sentence, to run concurrently with the other sentences, for shooting into an occupied building. He is now at Limestone Correctional Facility.

Two other defendants in the case, Cortez Mitchell and Amani Goodwin, are at two other prisons serving life sentences with the possibility of parole on various counts, including murder.

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marian.accardi@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_MAccardi.

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