Mack Howell has every right to be emotional after the seven and a half years he spent in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
He was released last week.
“I am so happy to be out,” said Howell during a press conference at the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.
Howell, 62, is trying to adjust to life as a free man.
“I have stayed up four nights,” Howell said. “It has been hard on me.”
He was convicted and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison in 2016 for a 2014 armed robbery at an Eastpointe 7-Eleven.
There were apparent holes in his case, including DNA evidence, according to investigators with the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.
They said Howell didn’t even match the description of the robbery suspect.
Someone else did. A serial armed robber was hitting 7-Eleven’s in Macomb County at the time.
“The height and weight of the initial report of six feet, medium build really fit the description of what we found was a serial armed robber working in south Macomb County at the time,” said Gail Pamukov, who heads the Conviction Integrity Unit.
That information and other details raised doubt about Howell’s involvement.
So the prosecutor’s office requested that his conviction and sentence be vacated and dismissed.
“It’s unfortunate that our system does what it does,” said Macomb County Prosecutor Pete Lucido. “It’s not a perfect system. Sometimes it’s not just, and sometimes the victims, as well as the individuals who are the accused, don’t get justice.”
For other innocent people in prison, Howell encourages them never to lose hope that their day will come.
“I will tell them to stay strong and work hard,” Howell said.
The Conviction Integrity Unit is only about a year old, and Howell is the first person the unit has gotten exonerated.
The prosecutor’s office was assisted in the case by the Michigan Innocence Clinic.
“We always believed his innocence throughout the whole thing, and we always supported him,” said Howell’s nephew Dwayne Howell. “So it was a long hard road for the whole family.”
Now Mack’s attorney said he’s preparing a civil rights lawsuit.
“When it is all said and done, you will see there was some egregious police misconduct,” said attorney Wolfgang Mueller.
He said Howell is also due about $300,000 from the state in accordance with the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.