Conviction thrown out for Brooklyn man who spent nearly 2 decades in prison

Emel McDowell pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2009 in exchange for his freedom.

Adolfo Carrion

Mar 17, 2023, 12:14 AM

Updated 404 days ago

Share:

A Brooklyn man who served nearly 20 years in prison for a murder he says he did not commit saw his conviction thrown out on Thursday.  
For Emel McDowell, he has been waiting for his justice for decades.  
“It was a lot of prayer, and believing that at some point it would have to be corrected,” said McDowell. “I didn’t know when, I didn’t know how, but I had to stick with it.” 
McDowell is now a free man after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez filed a motion to vacate the murder conviction that put him in jail for 19 years.  
McDowell was a high school senior when he was convicted of killing Jonathan Powell at a party in a Bed-Stuy community center in 1990. He was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison, despite evidence and witness testimony pointing to his friend as the shooter.  
After spending nearly 20 years in prison, he took a deal in 2009 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in exchange for a near-immediate release.  
“Just because I took a plea doesn’t mean I did it,” said McDowell. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if I spent my life in prison, so I had to do what was best for me at that point and move on.” 
The Brooklyn DA’s conviction review unit reinvestigated the case shortly after and found enough evidence to prove that McDowell was not the gunman. They say evidence pointed to McDowell’s friend and that police did not properly investigate the case.  
The DA’s office says it has referred the case back to the homicide bureau to determine if criminal action can be taken against McDowell’s friend.  
McDowell says he’s currently eyeing law school and that he will work to advocate for others who have been wrongfully convicted. 


More from News 12
2:07
Two NYPD officers arrested and facing multiple charges of sexual assault

Two NYPD officers arrested and facing multiple charges of sexual assault

1:57
Security heightened at Bronx Home Depot following customer complaints of uncomfortable encounters

Security heightened at Bronx Home Depot following customer complaints of uncomfortable encounters

2:15
Scattered showers across Wednesday; colder weather arrives Thursday

Scattered showers across Wednesday; colder weather arrives Thursday

DA: 3 teens indicted for killing bystander, wounding 4 in subway shooting

DA: 3 teens indicted for killing bystander, wounding 4 in subway shooting

1:53
Bronx bookworms take part in writing workshop for World Book Day

Bronx bookworms take part in writing workshop for World Book Day

1:57
State taxi federation raises reward for information to help stop carjackings, robberies

State taxi federation raises reward for information to help stop carjackings, robberies

1:42
Irish consulate general joins BP Gibson for a Woodlawn walkthrough

Irish consulate general joins BP Gibson for a Woodlawn walkthrough

1:00
Fordham Road BID discusses local improvements made, offers a look toward the future

Fordham Road BID discusses local improvements made, offers a look toward the future

1:56
MTA meets with riders in Fordham to hear their concerns with current transit system

MTA meets with riders in Fordham to hear their concerns with current transit system

0:59
City now has power to padlock illegal cannabis stores

City now has power to padlock illegal cannabis stores

1:30
NYPD: Shooting suspect linked to death of 24-year-old in Melrose still on the loose

NYPD: Shooting suspect linked to death of 24-year-old in Melrose still on the loose

0:30
Bronx hip-hop star MC Sha-Rock, Bronx Historical Society offering $1,000 scholarship

Bronx hip-hop star MC Sha-Rock, Bronx Historical Society offering $1,000 scholarship

1:44
'I can sleep better.' Longwood resident thanks News 12 for report on Bruckner Expressway construction noise

'I can sleep better.' Longwood resident thanks News 12 for report on Bruckner Expressway construction noise

1:20
Police: $1,000 stolen from Bronx gas station at gunpoint; suspects at large

Police: $1,000 stolen from Bronx gas station at gunpoint; suspects at large

State police: Victim of I-684 car crash identified as convicted murderer in country illegally

State police: Victim of I-684 car crash identified as convicted murderer in country illegally

2:50
Residents in Morris Heights living in ‘uninhabitable’ conditions demand fair housing

Residents in Morris Heights living in ‘uninhabitable’ conditions demand fair housing

1:34
'We really want to find him.' Wakefield family searches for missing loved one

'We really want to find him.' Wakefield family searches for missing loved one

0:45
New York Botanical Garden celebrates Earth Day

New York Botanical Garden celebrates Earth Day

1:27
Scholar Athlete: Tiarra Jackson

Scholar Athlete: Tiarra Jackson

1:49
Spring break in the Bronx: Low-cost events and activities around the borough

Spring break in the Bronx: Low-cost events and activities around the borough