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.

Ragsdale says he was surprised Coyle didn't try to go after him on the stand and admits that he had seen little of the evidence.

Crosswinds bartender Michael Szekely remembered serving Hillin and Dowdy cocktails, but not the Jägermeister. Coyle countered his testimony with lawyer Marco Palumbo. Szekely had confided in him that Crosswinds had a problem with GHB in 1999. He had come forward after learning Szekely testified under oath that it didn't.

Smotherman lit into Palumbo, shrieking, "You don't like me, do you?" Since Palumbo had nothing to gain by testifying, this was silly, but Smotherman succeeded in shifting attention from his testimony to his motives.

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.

A GHB-rape victim from Tulsa testified, but her anguish had the effect of highlighting Dowdy's ice queen demeanor. The prosecution piled on the witnesses, saving Dowdy's friends to pound the final nails into her coffin.

Her former supervisor Gallant didn't want to testify again. Things he'd heard about the case bothered him. "Emily's not the kind of person to leave Katie in the parking lot," Gallant says. "It doesn't make sense to me."

But he again testified about Dowdy drinking on the ski trip, at a keg party and crashing on his couch after going out with Gallant and another friend. (Jurors interviewed later believed, because of deft questioning from the prosecution and a meltdown by the defense, that he was testifying about things that happened after the accident.)

Nobody asked Gallant what he believed were important questions.

"Nobody ever asked me if I saw her drinking and driving," Gallant says. "I never did. Was she drinking and driving on the ski trip? No. Was she drinking and driving at the house party? No. I thought they would want to know that she always drank responsibly."

The most damaging witness was Dowdy's former friend Scott Perry. He testified about being with Dowdy when she did a U-turn over the median after missing an exit on an expressway and that he saw a picture taken after the accident showing Dowdy and her boyfriend Mulac at a tailgate party holding beers.

The driving incident happened before the accident and didn't involve alcohol, just a missed exit. And the picture?

It was taken on December 2, 2000. Dowdy had petitioned the board that monitored her Sobrietor for permission to go with Mulac to the Big 12 football championship game in Norman. They agreed, adjusting Dowdy's schedule for her Sobrietor tests, which she passed later that day.

The picture ran in the Oklahoman. Prosecutors called the monitor to complain that Dowdy was at the game, so they saw it. Judge Caswell saw it. Coyle had seen it. But he didn't demand that the prosecution produce the picture, nor did he put Dowdy or Mulac on the witness stand to refute Perry's testimony. If he had, the jury would have seen they were holding hotdog buns, not beers.

After an incendiary closing argument--and more tears--by Smotherman, the jury took almost no time to convict Dowdy. Because of "evidence" that Dowdy had continued to drink and drive and, as one juror later put it, her "total lack of humanity," they slammed her.

When the judge read the sentence of 40 years, Mulac stood up in the courtroom and wailed, "Noooo!"

"Harmless Error"

Smotherman repeatedly portrayed Dowdy as displaying "absolutely no remorse," one of Macy's favorite lines. After her first conviction, the Brewers complained Dowdy never told them she was sorry. Dowdy's demeanor in court even bothered Robin Turner, her former supervisor.

But Dowdy's stern façade hid a frightened woman barely holding it together. As for remorse, there was plenty. Just not the kind the prosecution wanted.

The Daily Oklahoman wrote that after her first conviction, Dowdy burst into sobs and addressed the Brewers, who had given lengthy and emotional victim impact statements. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I can't even put into words the shock I've been in." The paper contended she hadn't spoken loudly enough for the family to hear. Maybe so, but others in the courtroom heard her.

A few months later, Dowdy wrote the Brewers from prison: "Your tragic loss weighs heavy on my heart and mind each and every day. I was so frightened and scared during the trial that I appeared uncaring...I cannot even begin to imagine the grief you have experienced and the pain that you must endure on a daily basis. I am so very sorry..."

On February 3, 2002, Dowdy wrote another letter to the Brewers. "On May 22, 1999, I made choices. Poor choices which led to tragedy--leaving many different lives in ruin and despair, but namely, an innocent life lost--the precious life of Ryan."

It's a powerful letter, but Dowdy doesn't admit guilt or change her story. Only one line was ever admitted into the record: her admission that on a few occasions before her first trial she had consumed alcohol in violation of her bond.

Though Dowdy asked to meet with the Brewers while waiting on the jury in the third trial, she was barred by Smotherman. She wrote them again on April 13, 2004; Dowdy has had no reply.

Broke, the Jacksons have created an Emily Dowdy Legal Justice Fund (P.O. Box 432, Hillsboro, TX 76645). One of the women who came forward about being drugged at the Crosswinds has filed an affidavit on Dowdy's behalf. Coyle filed an affidavit saying that "the atmosphere of intimidation and hatred that Judge Caswell created and showed toward Emily Dowdy" caused him not to put Dowdy on the stand to testify about the hotdog bun picture.

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