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.

At about 1:30 a.m., someone supposedly called the police. A cop arrived and saw Hillin vomiting. After the officer took her to detox, the feelings abruptly vanished, another hallmark of GHB. Snapping her fingers, Hillin says, "Everything cleared up just like that."

Hillin left detox the following afternoon and called the office trying to find Dowdy. "We had agreed that we wouldn't stay out late because she had to work in the morning," Hillin says. She learned then about the wreck. That night, Hillin got a visit from Trooper King and related what she could remember of the evening.

Days later, Hillin visited the hospital to see Dowdy, who still hadn't been told about Brewer's death.

Emily Dowdy graduated with honors from Hillsboro High School in 1991. At right, Dowdy went blond at Oklahoma University.
Emily Dowdy graduated with honors from Hillsboro High School in 1991. At right, Dowdy went blond at Oklahoma University.
Charlie and Nancy Jackson spent more than $140,000 
defending their daughter; 45 percent came from 
supporters and fund-raisers, the rest from loans and 
their savings.
Tom Jenkins
Charlie and Nancy Jackson spent more than $140,000 defending their daughter; 45 percent came from supporters and fund-raisers, the rest from loans and their savings.

"She was kinda in and out of it," Hillin says. "I got really upset and started crying. She took my hand and told me it was OK. She was really strong." Hillin asked what had happened. "I don't remember," Dowdy said.

From the moment she first spoke to King, Harris, Gallant, Hillin and others in the hospital, Dowdy has maintained she remembers nothing after putting Hillin in the car. King testified that he didn't think Dowdy was "hedging," but Smotherman repeatedly portrayed Dowdy's memory loss as a lie to get out of paying for her crime.

When Dowdy returned to work in September 2000, they never talked about that night. "She was strange; I was strange; my co-workers were strange," Hillin says. She left that job a month later.

Hillin got a visit from prosecutor Miller. Polished and gung-ho, Miller was to the point. "You could tell she's trying to make a name for herself," Hillin says. "She just thought Emily was a drunk driver and someone has to pay. GHB was not a factor for her."

Beau Williams antagonized Hillin on the stand by suggesting that in the dark, crowded Crosswinds, anyone--the bartender, a stranger, even Hillin--could have put GHB in Dowdy's drink. Williams was grasping at straws, but the suggestion infuriated an important witness.

Events before the accident were used to portray Dowdy as a heavy drinker. Perry testified that Dowdy drank on the ski trip. That Dowdy had a keg party. Friends said they'd seen her drink more than two or three drinks in the past. (No one said when, where or over what period of time.)

Hillin's testimony that Dowdy came to work after the accident smelling of alcohol was refuted by their supervisor, but the impression built.

In her closing argument, Smotherman described Brewer's terrible last moments and--like her mentor Macy--shed a few tears.

Painted as a lying rich bitch party girl with no remorse, needing to be "locked up for the protection of society," Dowdy was convicted, given 25 years in prison and hauled off in handcuffs.

The Appeal

After lunch on May 31, 2002, an inmate found Dowdy and told her to report immediately to her case manager on the honor dorm. Stone-faced, the manager handed her the phone and said, "You need to call your lawyer."

After her second trial, Dowdy had been in prison 16 months. Caswell had denied her request for a sentence reduction. Nothing Dowdy had done--"speak-outs" for high school students, becoming a peer educator on women's health, attending a faith-based course called "Alcohol Narcotics Victorious"--was viewed in her favor. In fact, prosecutors used it against her.

Dowdy wasn't comfortable with the speak-outs, in which inmates told their stories. "The whole point is to keep kids from coming to prison," Dowdy says. "I can't go tell them about the date-rape drug and what I think really happened to me." She kept her talks general.

The prosecutors interviewed one of Brewer's relatives who had heard Dowdy at a speak-out. "Basically, they said that I didn't act like I cared, that I got up and left early," Dowdy says. "There were a couple of times I had to leave after I gave my talk, because I had a job and my boss wasn't crazy about me doing it. They take something positive you do and hit you over the head with it." The prosecutors suggested the "ANV" course was Dowdy's admission that she was an alcoholic.

For her appeal after the second trial, Dowdy's parents hired defense attorney John W. Coyle III, a flamboyant, often-married lawyer whose ego and booming voice match the size of his portrait in his waiting room. With a transcript littered with judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, Coyle assured them Dowdy would get a new trial.

In her case manager's office, Dowdy picked up the phone. "We won!" Coyle said. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals had overturned her conviction because Caswell had improperly barred the involuntary intoxication defense. Dowdy burst into tears. She had a third shot at freedom.

The Experts

When Trinka Porrata and Dr. Deborah Zvocek arrived in Oklahoma City in March 2004 to testify for Dowdy as expert witnesses on GHB, they were alarmed. Two of the most prominent experts on GHB in the country, Porrata and Zvocek believe Dowdy and Hillin were drugged. "It's frightening," Porrata says, "because it can happen to anybody."

But the trial was a week away and Coyle didn't understand the science of GHB, nor had he interviewed and prepared important witnesses.

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