Exactly two years ago in the paper version of Unfair Park, we wrote about Hillsboro native Emily Dowdy, a former University of Oklahoma student who, in May 1999, was driving a car that rammed into one driven by Ryan Brewer, the 20-year-old son of an Oklahoma City police officer. Critically injured, Dowdy was charged with killing Brewer while drunk. Dowdy claimed she had been drugged with GHB, a date-rape drug, and sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant. Several national experts on GHB testified on her behalf. But she was found guilty and given an unusually harsh sentence: 40 years in prison.
So Dowdy's supporters were stunned yesterday when Oklahoma District Judge Kenneth Watson suspended the rest of her prison sentence and ordered her to a private alcohol treatment center for 90 days. It was especially stunning because, as we revealed in July 2005, there had been evidence of prosecutorial misconduct during the trial that showed Judge Susan Caswell, the wife of a policeman and the judge who presided at Dowdy’s trial, was making rulings biased in favor of the district attorney’s office. Caswell was defeated in the last election by criminal defense attorney Kenneth Watson, who had sat in on some of the testimony in Dowdy’s third and last trial.
Last year, Dowdy’s 40-year sentence was reduced to 26 years by an appellate court. (Considering that others tried for the same crime in Oklahoma had received sentences as low as six years, 26 years is still extremely harsh.)
After the appellate ruling, Dowdy applied for a rehearing on the sentence, and Watson, who took the bench in January, granted permission.
Dowdy’s parents, Nancy and Charlie Jackson, were hopeful that their daughter might get some combination of sentence reduction and probation but were unprepared for the ruling that meant she would get out of prison immediately. “I was in shock when the judge said he was suspending the rest of her sentence,” says Nancy Jackson, who picked up Dowdy’s belongings at the Mabel Bassett Prison today. “It took us all by surprise.”
Dowdy, who was brought in to the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles, had about 40 supporters present. The judge ordered that she be transferred immediately to the private treatment center. In three months she will be evaluated. Dowdy could come home at that point or be eligible for work release while she finishes two years of probation. --Glenna Whitley