Wrongly convicted Brooklyn man to be exonerated after serving 19 years for murder – New York Daily News – NewsEverything New York

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Wrongly convicted Brooklyn man to be exonerated after serving 19 years for murder – New York Daily News – NewsEverything New York
Wrongly convicted Brooklyn man to be exonerated after serving 19 years for murder – New York Daily News – NewsEverything New York

A Brooklyn man who spent 19 years behind bars for the 1990 murder of a teenager is set to have have his conviction vacated Thursday, after an investigation proved his claim that his friend was responsible for the shooting.

Emel McDowell was 17 years old when the victim, Jonathan Powell, was shot dead after a fight at a Bedford-Stuyvesant house party on Oct. 27, 1990.

The NYPD investigation into the killing lasted less than 24 hours and ended with detectives arresting McDowell, despite conflicting witness statements and McDowell’s insistence that his friend, who he was with at the party, actually did the shooting.

It would later be found that the quick investigation was inadequate and police did not explore the possibility that the friend was the shooter.

Despite witnesses coming forward and backing up McDowell’s story to both police and prosecutors, he stood trial.

A jury wrongfully convicted him of murder and weapons possession in 1992, and he was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison.

When more witnesses came forward after the trial to exonerate him, he immediately sought to have the conviction overturned.

His efforts failed until 2007, when he submitted a letter the real shooter sent him back in 1991 — all but admitting the crime — along with several sworn affidavits.

“I don’t think I deserve to walk the face of the Earth because one of my friends is locked up for something that he didn’t do,” his friend wrote in the letter, according to prosecutors.

Later, it would be determined the letter was given to McDowell’s defense attorney before trial, but was not investigated nor presented to the prosecution.

The motion also included written affirmations from six witnesses who all swore McDowell was not the shooter. Three of the witnesses admitted the man’s friend killed Powell.

He was granted a court hearing in December 2009, but just before the proceeding would have started, prosecutors made him an offer. If McDowell pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of six to 18 years, he could get out of jail.

Desperate for freedom, he took the deal. McDowell told the court that he had a gun the night of the murder and worked alongside the friend who actually shot Powell.

McDowell’s attorney asked the Brooklyn district attorney’s Conviction Review Unit to investigate the case again, claiming the man admitted guilt only to avoid more prison time.

During the investigation, the unit interviewed witnesses and determined the letter from the alleged shooter was real.

They also interviewed the former friend, who claimed Powell threatened to kill him and the group he was with earlier in the night.

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With his attorney by his side, the friend admitted he shot Powell in self-defense when the teen ran at him. He also told them McDowell was not armed and did not shoot anyone that night.

The unit wrote that the friend’s “demeanor and emotional state throughout the interview demonstrated that he was overwhelmed with guilt and relieved to confess.” His name was not immediately released.

He went on to tell the Conviction Review Unit he had never been contacted by McDowell’s defense attorney.

In a statement, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said the system “failed Emel McDowell.”

“A full reinvestigation by our Conviction Review Unit confirmed that another individual fatally shot the victim, as Mr. McDowell has consistently maintained, and [on Thurday] we will ask to give him his good name back,” Gonzalez said. As prosecutors, it is our obligation to do justice in every case, and I am committed to continuing this important work to enhance fairness and community trust.”

Since 2014, investigations by the Conviction Review Unit have resulted in 35 vacated convictions. The unit is currently working on 50 cases, prosecutors said.

The investigation into the friend is expected to continue.


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JOHN ANNESE, Elizabeth Keogh


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