Hot Dog Bun Justice

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled in favor of prison inmate Emily Dowdy ("Oklahoma Railroad," by Glenna Whitley, July 21, 2005), granting her an evidentiary hearing. Her family hopes the ruling could lead to a new trial. But the hearing, which must be held by mid-April, will take place before the same judge who helped Oklahoma City prosecutors convict Dowdy following a fatal traffic accident.

Two years ago, the former University of Oklahoma architecture student was sentenced to 40 years in prison after killing a police officer's son in a 1999 car accident. The prosecution said Dowdy was driving drunk; the defense contended she was a victim of "involuntary intoxication" as a result of being slipped the drug GHB in a disco.

Dowdy has been through one mistrial and two complete trials, all marred by prosecutorial misconduct. In her third trial, the assistant district attorneys presented a witness who testified he saw a newspaper picture of Dowdy publicly drinking alcohol in violation of her bond. The picture actually showed her holding a hot dog bun not a beer.

The appeals court issued an order on February 14 that there was reason to have a hearing to determine if Dowdy's defense attorney failed to rebut "false and misleading testimony" regarding the picture. In addition, the defense attorney allegedly failed to put on powerful evidence that revealed other women had contacted him to say that they were victims of GHB intoxication at the same disco, and he did not move for a mistrial after learning of possible jury tampering.

"After two complete jury trials in this matter, it is indeed unfortunate that such claims should arise involving arguably prejudicial information which was presented to the jury, and arguably material information which was not," the order says, noting there appears to be "at least a strong possibility that trial counsel was ineffective."

Dowdy's parents, Nancy and Charlie Jackson of Hillsboro, were ecstatic at the ruling but wary of returning to the same courtroom where Dowdy has so far been tried twice.

"In their most recent four-to-one ruling, we believe that the words written by the appeals court judges made a very profound statement regarding their disgust for this whole matter," Nancy Jackson stated in an e-mail message. "We hope and pray that this obsession by the Oklahoma County criminal justice system, particularly District Judge Susan Caswell and former assistant District Attorneys Connie Smotherman and Christy Miller, with excessively punishing an innocent person for a crime that obviously was committed by a third party, will finally be brought to a halt by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals."

So far, Dowdy has spent almost three-and-a-half years in prison.

 
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