Oklahoma Railroad

Accused of killing a cop's son, Emily Dowdy learns the hard way that in Oklahoma City justice isn't blind. It works for the prosecution.

Gilchrist was fired, but it had taken years for the Oklahoma County legal community to do anything about her conduct.

In Oklahoma County's relatively small pond, anyone brave enough to stand up to Macy could pay a heavy price. Appellate judges repeatedly condemned Macy's tactics, but The Daily Oklahoman--owned by the ultra-conservative billionaire Ed Gaylord and family and in 1999 named the "worst newspaper in America" by the Columbia Journalism Review--applauded his tough-on-crime stance.

On April 30, 2001, Amnesty International released "Old Habits Die Hard," a searing report on death cases in Oklahoma. Not only were defendants denied fair trials, some were demonstrably innocent. Clifford Henry Bowen spent five years on death row for the 1980 murders of three people. A federal appeals court overturned his sentence, saying that Macy suppressed evidence showing a cop was the killer. Jeffrey Todd Pierce was sentenced to 65 years for a 1985 rape. After 15 years in prison, a DNA test proved his innocence. In May 2001, soon after he was notified of the DNA results in the Pierce case, Macy announced his early retirement.

Oklahoma County prosecutors used testimony about this 
photo of Dowdy and Jon Mulac tailgating at the OU Big 
12 Championship on December 2, 2000, to prove she 
was an unrepentant party girl. The "beer" in Dowdy's 
hand is actually a hotdog bun.
Oklahoma County prosecutors used testimony about this photo of Dowdy and Jon Mulac tailgating at the OU Big 12 Championship on December 2, 2000, to prove she was an unrepentant party girl. The "beer" in Dowdy's hand is actually a hotdog bun.
Dowdy with Mulac and relatives.
Dowdy with Mulac and relatives.

But Macy left behind a well-oiled machine "whose ambition seems to have been racking up as many convictions as possible rather than seeing that justice is done," Furhman writes. "He trained a generation of prosecutors who continue this practice." Some Macy-trained prosecutors have become district court judges.

Dowdy wasn't facing execution, but she was prosecuted by Macy's machine. Prosecutors in all three trials dipped into their mentor's bag of tricks. Perhaps the most egregious came at the end of the third trial: manipulating a witness into testifying about seeing a post-accident newspaper photo of Dowdy and her boyfriend at a tailgating party holding beers. Jurors later cited the photo as the ultimate example of Dowdy's lack of remorse.

Prosecutors never produced the actual picture; it revealed the couple holding not beers, but hotdog buns.

Both judges who presided over her trials once served as assistant district attorneys under Macy. Judge Susan Caswell, who handled Dowdy's second and third trials, is married to a police officer. Her campaign literature showed Caswell with Macy and promised she would be an advocate for victims' rights. One Oklahoma appellate judge wrote that Caswell should recuse herself not only from Dowdy's retrial, but all criminal trials.

Caswell refused to step aside, and the transcript of Dowdy's third trial is replete with examples of Caswell's bias toward the prosecution. Dowdy's appellate attorney Mark Henricksen of El Reno, Oklahoma, has filed an appeal citing the hotdog bun picture and numerous examples of prosecutorial misconduct.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything like it in all my years of practice," Henricksen says. "In this case, I think law enforcement didn't do any self-regulation in order to make sure they got both a conviction and a long sentence."

Dowdy's prosecutors manipulated witnesses, misrepresented facts and twisted scientific testimony. Taped interviews with five jurors, obtained by the Observer, showed those tactics distorted their perceptions of the evidence and led to Dowdy's harsh sentence--as did Dowdy's demeanor in the courtroom.

Dowdy's frozen expression seemed unemotional and uncaring. The prosecution painted her as an ice queen who didn't care that she killed Brewer. Dowdy says she was in shock at being on trial for manslaughter. Though able to feel deep sadness for the life she took, Dowdy cannot mentally put herself in that car on that road.

There's substantial circumstantial evidence Dowdy was drugged. If Dowdy was the victim of GHB, not only has the life of a young man been lost, but a young woman will pay for something she is not responsible for.

"She was totally in the wrong, but she had no control over herself," says Dick Frye, who investigated the case for Dowdy's lawyer and first raised the issue of GHB. "She was a victim who was made into a perpetrator."

The Accident

By the time the two women arrived at the Crosswinds Club a little after 11 p.m. on May 22, 1999, the tiny disco was packed. Tucked into an apartment complex, the Crosswinds was known for playing high-energy tunes, and Dowdy loved to dance.

Dowdy and co-worker Katie Hillin made their way to the crowded bar. Hillin wedged in first and asked Dowdy what she wanted.

"Cape Cod," Dowdy yelled over the noise. Hillin turned with two shot glasses and handed Dowdy one. "What's this?" Dowdy asked.

"Jägermeister," Hillin said and tossed back her shot.

Dowdy hadn't asked for the liqueur, but she gulped and grimaced at the pungent flavor. Hillin turned back to the bartender and got their cocktails. The women took their glasses to the dance floor and joined in.

Dowdy and Hillin weren't good friends. Both attended Oklahoma University in Norman and worked at the Marriott Postal Training Facility, staffing the front desk of the hotel where postal employees came to train. Hillin was new, but Dowdy had worked there 20 to 30 hours a week for almost two years.

Dowdy's parents, Nancy and Charles Jackson, own an insurance business in Hillsboro and raised their four kids in the country. Though the Jacksons made the $150 payment on their daughter's used car, Dowdy paid most of her own college expenses. She hadn't become a full-time college student until age 23 and was focused on getting a degree in architecture.

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