Defense Attorney speaks out on Otieno investigation:‘They were in the performance of their duties’

NBC12 sat down with Defense Attorney Cary Bowen on how he plans to defend his client in the Irvo Otieno case.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:26 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - NBC12 sat down with Defense Attorney Cary Bowen Friday to discuss how he plans to defend his client in the Irvo Otieno case.

Bowen is representing 45-year-old Jermaine Branch, one of seven Henrico deputies now indicted on second-degree murder charges for the death of 28-year-old Irvo Otieno.

Otieno’s family says the deputies tortured and murdered their loved one.

Prosecutors say their treatment was a cruel demonstration of power.

“I don’t see this as a murder. I really don’t,” Bowen said.

Bowen says his client had very little involvement in what took place at Central State hospital.

He says his client can be seen in videos carrying Otieno into the hospital. Bowen says most of Branch’s involvement was holding onto one of his feet in the psychiatric room.

After reviewing the videos himself, Bowen says the defendants, including his client, did not act in malice towards Otieno.

“They were kind of in the performance of their duties and not in any vicious way that I’ve been able to see or tell. I don’t see any name-calling, kicking, or stomping from the videos I’ve looked at. I haven’t seen anybody kneeling on his head or neck or anything like that,” Bowen said.

With surveillance videos released to the public before a trial, Bowen says overcoming public opinion will be challenging in this case.

“Has Mr. Branch been convicted already in the eyes of the public? I hope not,” Otieno said.

He says if the cases go to trial, a big question is if all suspects will be tried together or separately.

“Is the government going to try and put all ten defendants into the same room and try them at one time? I don’t think so, and the defenses for each different individual are going to be different,” Bowen said.

Bowen says the case has tremendously impacted his client and his family.

“This is not what he’s used to,” Bowen said.

He says he and his client want the Otieno family to know that “Branch’s heart goes out to them. Mr. Branch specifically said he feels bad for his family,” Bowen said.

For the defendants, pre-trial hearings are now set for April and May. It must also be decided if the case will proceed with a judge or jury.