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Detective admits to lies, in infant murder trial

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

In a long day under cross examination, a homicide detective admitted he lied to a suspect and "unintentionally" lied while under oath on the witness stand.

In the fourth day of the murder trial of Philanders Lamont Bowie, defense attorney Steve Frey closely questioned Clayton County Police Department Detective Frank Thomas. Thomas got Bowie to allegedly confess to killing his girlfriend's baby, Makayla Denise Valley, in 2005.

Prosecutors have said that confession is key to convicting the 27-year-old of murder. Frey, starting at 9:30 a.m., and going until a few minutes before 5 p.m., tried to impeach the detective and undermine the case. Frey questioned the detective's interview, sometimes questioning what was said minute-by-minute.

"So when you told my client, some 52 times over the course of 40-something minutes, that you knew [the baby's death] was just an accident, you lied to him every time, didn't you?" Frey asked.

"That is absolutely correct," Thomas said. "I use the tools available to me ... It's called an interview technique. It's a lie. It's called an interview technique."

Thomas said there was "no way" Valley's death was an accident, because her whole body was battered and bruised when she died of a ruptured liver. He told Bowie, though, that he knew it was an accident, and no one goes to jail over accidents.

Thomas used the word repeatedly -- in a taped interrogation seen by the jury on Friday -- before Bowie finally admitted to hurting the child without meaning to.

Thomas testified on Monday that was the only time he lied, during the course of the investigation, but Frey pushed him to admit at least one other time.

While on the witness stand at a probable cause hearing, Thomas said under oath that Bowie confessed to "slamming the child repeatedly" into a bouncy chair. The taped confession never shows the suspect using the word "slammed," though. Instead, he said "tossed," at one point saying he "kept tossing" the little girl into a bouncy chair.

"No, he never said 'slammed,'" Thomas admitted, during the sometimes tense questioning.

"So when you prefaced that word with 'he stated,' that was a lie, wasn't it?" Frey said.

"Yes," Thomas said. "It was unintentional, though."

"Is that the only time you used the word, 'slamming,'" Frey said.

"Probably not, counselor," Thomas said. "I can't say why I said 'slamming.' I'm going to have to answer for that one. I don't know why I used that word."

At another point, during the cross examination, Thomas pushed back against the defense attorney, arguing the seriousness of Bowie's alleged confession overpowered any possible quibbles with the detective's characterization of the confession.

"My job was to interrogate him," Thomas said. "I had to figure out who did it. Your client said he did it."

"My client told you a story," Frey said.

"Your client told me a bunch of lies, at the beginning."

"But he's not the only one, is he?" Frey said.

"No, counselor," Thomas said. "It's an interview technique."

The trial continues into its fifth day on Tuesday, and the jury is expected to hear the testimony of medical examiners and crime scene investigators.

If convicted of murder, Bowie faces a possible sentence of life in prison.