Exoneree 'so happy to be out' after 7+ years in prison for Macomb County robbery he didn't commit

For the past 7 ½ years, Mack Howell has been in prison for a robbery he didn't commit.

The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit looked at the case and asked for Howell to be released after seeing new evidence that wasn't known at the time and was not available during his trial.

"I’m absolutely at least honored to bring forth our first exoneree in this case, Mr. Mack Howell," Lucido said

Now, the 62-year-old is free.

"I'm so glad to be out," Howell said. "It's amazing, feels good."

According to Prosecutor Pete Lucido's office, the robber was wearing all black, including a black cap on his head and a mask concealing his face with only his eyes visible. He was described as being 6 feet tall and having a medium build. The 7-Eleven clerk was the only witness.

A police K-9 was used to track the robber, who ran from the scene. However, the dog wasn't given anything touched by the suspect to track and the K-9 started its track outside the store. According to the prosecutor's office, the dog hit on a paper bag with a beer can inside. The robber was not seen on security cameras or in person with a paper bag or beer can, before, during, or after the robbery.

However, the beer can was processed for fingerprints and DNA. A quality fingerprint on the can did not belong to Howell, but the beer can had Howell’s DNA on it and the DNA of an unknown person.

Howell was the only person identified through DNA and became the main suspect. A photo identification process occurred several months after the robbery, and a combination of the DNA and identification process resulted in Howell being charged and convicted.

After the initial crime, five other armed robberies of nearby 7-11’s in Macomb County occurred. A 7-Eleven store on Ten Mile in Warren was robbed on July 16, 2014, August 10, 2014, and August 15, 2014. A 7-11 store on Harper Ave. in St. Clair Shores was robbed on July 25, 2014. On August 20, 2014, the same store that Howell was convicted of robbing, was robbed again.

Authorities said a suspect in those robberies was just recently discovered.

Mack Howell

Howell's innocence was proven by a few pieces of evidence. First, he had a severe medical issue and walked with a cane, meaning he wouldn't have been able to commit the crime and run from the scene. Second, his appearance at the time did not match that of the robber – Howell was shorter and heavier. Third, the K-9 track was questionable since the track began outside in an area contaminated by many people.

The prosecutor's office said none of that evidence was heard by the jury that convicted Howell.

"He is completely incapable of having dashed out of the store like the robber on the video did," said Professor David Moran, the co-founder of The Michigan Innocence Clinic.

The Clinic assisted with reviewing Howell's case.

Howell was released last week. He looks forward to spending time with family and is now eligible to receive nearly $330,000 dollars from the state through the Wrongful Imprisonment Act, and his attorney says future lawsuits are possible.