NYC man wrongfully convicted in murder of teen set to have conviction vacated

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, March 16, 2023
NYC man wrongfully convicted of murder set to have conviction vacated
A New York City man found to be wrongly convicted of murder will have his conviction vacated.

BED-STUY, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A New York City man found to be wrongly convicted of murder will have his conviction vacated.

Emel McDowell, 50, has spent 19 years behind bars for the 1990 murder of 19-year-old Jonathan Powell after a fight at a Bedford-Stuyvesant house party.

McDowell, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, was wrongfully convicted in 1992, and he was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison.

Witnesses began coming forward to exonerate McDowell, including the actual shooter, who wrote all but admitting the crime. Six witnesses also swore McDowell was not the gunman, with three of them implicating the actual shooter.

McDowell finally got a court hearing in Dec 2009; but even then, prosecutors were unable to admit he was wrongly convicted. Instead, they offered him a manslaughter plea in exchange for getting out of jail. He took it.

However, McDowell did not stop fighting, asking the Brooklyn District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit to investigate the case again.

As a result, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez will ask a judge to vacate the conviction, before a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge.

"Our legal system failed Emel McDowell when he was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1990 and his release years later was conditioned on an admission to a crime he did not commit. A full reinvestigation by our Conviction Review Unit confirmed that another individual fatally shot the victim, as Mr. McDowell has consistently maintained, and today we will ask to give him his good name back. 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," Gonzalez said.

To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit has resulted in the vacatur of 35 convictions since 2014. Currently, CRU has approximately 50 open investigations.

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