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Prison inmate sentenced to 10 years in death of cellmate

Mario Lawrence Bowling says, 'My actions were not the actions of a reasonable man'

September 24, 2010|By DON AINES

A state prison inmate who in 2009 killed a cellmate convicted of murder was sentenced Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court to another 10 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, a sentence he might be able to serve in another state.

Mario Lawrence Bowling, 44, was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree assault, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment in the death of Eric Watkins at Western Correctional Institution in Allegany County, according to court records. Bowling was granted a change of venue to Washington County and pleaded guilty to the manslaughter charge Aug. 5, court records show.

Watkins, 23, of Baltimore, was serving a 100-year sentence for first-degree murder, court records show.

At the time of the killing, Bowling was serving a 25-year sentence from Montgomery County, Md., for robbery with a dangerous weapon, robbery and assault, according to court records.

Allegany County Deputy State's Attorney Frederick Voss told Circuit Judge John H. McDowell that Bowling has detainers to serve a federal sentence and a state sentence in Virginia.

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Defense Attorney Thomas Mooney told McDowell that Watkins and Bowling had been cellmates a relatively short time when "the relationship became tumultuous." On the night of the killing, Watkins woke up Bowling and told him to go to the cell door, call for a correctional officer and ask to be moved to another cell.

Bowling refused and the men began a struggle that lasted about 30 minutes, Mooney said. By the time correctional officers discovered the fight, Bowling had Watkins in a headlock and was banging his head on the concrete floor, Mooney said.

Watkins was a member of the Crips gang in prison and was serving a sentence for murdering a woman and burning her body, Mooney said. Bowling had been in prison for 16 years and was "no spring chicken" compared to the younger Watkins, he said.

"This gentleman was defending himself," Mooney said, asking McDowell to impose the shortest sentence possible.

"It was intense fear that seized control that night," Bowling said. "My actions were not the actions of a reasonable man."

Bowling asked McDowell to recommend that he be transferred to another state to serve his sentence.

Though it might have made him appear weak in the prison culture, McDowell told Bowling it would have been better to have called for help than committing an act of violence. He sentenced Bowling to serve the 10 years at the end of all unserved or unexpired sentences and recommended he be transferred to another state.

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