A North Carolina judge has ordered a new trial for a man who has spent the past 19 years in prison for two murders he has always maintained he did not commit.
A North Carolina district court reversed a double murder conviction and ordered a new trial for Darryl Anthony Howard based on both prosecutorial misconduct and new DNA evidence pointing to other suspects.
Darryl always maintained his innocence in the 1991 double homicide of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nichanda. He was arrested for the crime nearly a year after it occurred although there was never any physical evidence linking him to the crime.
Durham police detective Daryl Dowdy had testified that the crimes were never suspected to involve a sexual assault despite clear physical evidence of sexual assault to both victims.
The nude bodies of the two were found in 1991 inside their apartment in at a public housing complex in east Durham.
According to a report by The News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, ” The case – taken up by the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that has freed 18 wrongly convicted people from death row in its 22 years – casts a spotlight again on the Durham justice system. It renews questions about the integrity and fairness of prosecutors and police investigators in a city that took a bruising from its handling of the Duke lacrosse case.”
The Duke lacrosse case was a 2006 criminal case resulting from what proved to be a false accusation of rape made against three members of the men’s lacrosse team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
The fallout from the case’s final resolution led to, among other things, the disbarment of lead prosecutor Mike Nifong.
Through open file discovery the Innocence Project uncovered a police memo, “That reveals that Durham police received a detailed tip from a confidential informant four days after the murders that the crimes involved sexual assault and the victims were murdered by more than one perpetrator – information that former prosecutor Mike Nifong never turned over to Darryl’s attorneys,” according to a release by the Innocence Project
The Project also said DNA testing before trial excluded Mr. Howard as the source of biological evidence recovered from the daughter, and new DNA testing has excluded him as the source of semen found in the mother.
The prosecutorial misconduct in Darryl’s case casts doubt over the entire Durham justice system since it was former prosecutor Nifong who was disbarred and held in contempt for his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case, according to the Innocence Project .
In his order released Tuesday Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson wrote, “It is undisputed that there was and is no physical evidence connecting Howard to this crime scene or to these victims.”
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