The Tragedy of Tiarah and the Injustice of Angela Bowers
Angela Bowers is spending a virtual life sentence in prison. The only thing that is certain is that her life has been tragic. Angela Bowers and her children have been ground up by a society and a system defined by white supremacy, racism, poverty, and injustice. Her case exemplifies everything that’s wrong.
At 2:00 am on July 7, 1993, Tiarah Bowers, Angela Bowers’ two-year-old daughter, was found dying in her apartment in the Henry Horner Homes. Angela’s boyfriend, Daniel Searcy, found Tiarah at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Angela had to call 911 at least three times. After what seemed to her a long time no one had yet come. She ran down five flights of stairs with her baby, at which point she could no longer carry her, and asked Searcy to carry Tiarah the remaining eight flights. According to Angela, Searcy asked her to tell the police that she had found Tiarah due to the fact that he [Searcy] had a warrant for his arrest. When an ambulance arrived 15 minutes later it was too late to save Tiarah’s life. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Cook County Hospital. However, Angela was not told of her daughter’s death until several hours later, while she was being questioned at the police station.
Angela told the police that Tiarah had had a temper tantrum about a soda earlier that evening. She said she had disciplined Tiarah by taking her upstairs to her bedroom. Searcy told police he believed that Angela had abused Tiarah that evening. ER doctors found evidence Tiarah had suffered serious physical and sexual abuse. It included cigarette burns, whip marks, and vaginal trauma. Instead of questioning Searcy at greater length, however, they held Angela and grilled her for hours.
The detectives gave Angela the third degree. She was confined to a small interrogation room. She was a grieving mother, confused and likely devastated by her sense of responsibility for failing her daughter. She had difficulty thinking clearly and processing what had happened. After hours of being grilled she confessed to the murder of her daughter and agreed to sign a confession that her attorney attempted unsuccessfully to have suppressed at her trial. In it she admitted that she beat and dragged her daughter up the stairs and then threw her back down the stairs and kicked her.
A family member says that Tiarah was not Searcy’s child, and that he carried a grudge against the child. Nonetheless, detectives had already decided that Angela was the perpetrator of this tragic crime and brow-beat her into confessing. Even though at trial she had repudiated this confession, in her appeals she does not raise this issue because her attorney did not think it was viable. She raised several other issues.
Angela Bowers was born into a working class family; she grew up in a home on the West Side with her mother and father, a postal worker. She suffered from head injuries as a child which affected her ability to interact socially with others. As Angela grew into adulthood, she started using drugs. She had four children before leaving home. Angela moved into Henry Horner Homes, a Chicago Housing Authority Project on the West Side and the setting of Alex Kotlowitz’s best-selling “There Are No Children Here,” later made into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey. She survived on welfare.
Her condition, economically and emotionally, did not make it easy for Angela. She suffers from Dysthymia, which was confirmed by a doctor at Cook County Jail after her arrest. Dysthymia affects mood and causes mild depression and a lack of interest in everyday activities. It is a serious mental illness that can affect an individuals’ ability to function. Angela Bowers was taking medication for Dysthymia when her daughter died. Dysthymia suggests that Angela probably was poor at solving problems, making decisions, concentrating, and had sleep and appetite disorders. Dysthymia definitely would affect her ability as a parent. She also suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.
The system totally failed Angela Bowers and her children. Tiarah died at the age of two from severe abuse. Whatever actually happened on July 7, 1993, Angela Bowers herself is a victim in this tragedy. She has 3 other children. They are victims too. Angela was convicted of Tiarah’s murder and sentenced to 85 years in prison, effectively for the rest of her life.
At her trial Angela was defended by an assistant public defender named Mike King. Public defenders are overworked, underpaid, and are unable to fairly represent their clients. Jacobs failed to investigate whether her boyfriend could have had a role in Tiarah’s death. Neither did he investigate Angela’s mental state. The fact that she was taking medication for her mental disorder was not presented to the court.
Angela has been in prison or jail for 19 years. She is 44. She has struggled with mental illness and has continued to fight for her freedom through the courts. Following her initial trial and conviction her public defender requested a fitness hearing and a new trial, but both were denied. She has appealed her poor legal representation, and other issues. The Cook County Appellate Court affirmed her conviction on August 1, 1997 and the Illinois Supreme Court refused the case on October 1, 1997. A subsequent Post Conviction Petition for Relief was also denied on June 26, 1998. The issues raised in her appeals were not issues of innocence. Her public defender would only raise the issue of whether her arrest was illegal, whether she was given a fair trial, or whether she was even fit to stand trial.
Angela Bowers should have received mental health treatment. Angela maintains her innocence. Instead she was ignored. This story parallels many who are incarcerated. Racism and sexism are not new in the Criminal Justice System. But they should outrage everyone with a conscience. Angela Bowers deserves support and help. She deserves an opportunity to learn and develop as an individual. Angela is seeking legal help in preparing a petition for Executive Clemency. All suggestions will be appreciated. She can be reached through the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, or directly by mail at Dwight Correctional Center.
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
1325 S. Wabash Ave. Suite 105
Chicago IL 60605
Ms. Angela Bowers, K00202
Dwight Correctional Center
23813 E. 3200 North Road
Dwight, Il 60420