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Judge plans to grant bond for Durham double murder convict awaiting new trial

Posted July 11, 2014

— A Superior Court judge in Durham is considering bail for a man imprisoned 20 years after a double murder conviction that was marked by misconduct by Durham police and the former district attorney who falsely prosecuted the Duke University lacrosse case.

Mike Nifong Innocence Project co-founder calls for audit of Mike Nifong's prosecutions

Judge Orlando Hudson said Friday he intends to release 52-year-old Darryl Anthony Howard on unsecured bond unless he's blocked by a prosecution appeal to the state Court of Appeals.

It's unclear when a ruling might be issued, but Howard's defense attorney, Jim Cooney, said it could be as soon as Friday.

Hudson ordered a new trial in May after ruling there was no physical evidence connecting Howard – who is serving an 80-year prison sentence – to the 1991 drug-related deaths of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda Washington.

A jury in 1995 found Howard guilty of two counts of second-degree murder.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Stormy Ellis asked Hudson not to grant bond, citing numerous arrests and convictions prior to 1995, including breaking and entering and armed robbery convictions. He also has a number of prion infractions, including fighting.

"He has shown himself to be a definite threat to the community in Durham," Ellis said.

But Hudson called the case, taken to trial by former Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong, "horrendous."

Attorney Barry Scheck, also representing Howard, said the evidence was weak, pointing to recently discovered evidence that could have cleared his client in the crimes.

DNA from rape kits performed on both Doris Washington and Nishonda excluded Howard as a match, and new DNA tests showed samples from Doris Washington's rape kit matched a convicted felon with a history of assaulting women.

Also, during Howard’s trial, police detective D.L. Dowdy testified that he never suspected the murders involved sexual assault, a claim Nifong repeated to the jury. But a police memo from four days after the murders, uncovered by researchers with the New York-based Innocence Project, contradicted those claims.

"We know in the prosecution file that there was a smoking-pistol memo by an informant," Scheck told Hudson. "The new DNA evidence is extraordinary. The smoking-pistol memo that should have been disclosed is extraordinary."

Nifong made national headlines in 2006 for prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of raping a woman. He was disbarred a year later for his handling of the case and was later found in contempt for making false statements to a judge.

"Mike Nifong has been disbarred and sanctioned for his conduct in the Duke lacrosse case for suppressing exculpatory evidence, and now we have proof he did it in this case," Scheck said.

Howard's wife of 15 years, Nannie Howard, said after the hearing that she's always had faith in her husband and is hopeful that he'll be released.

"I'm overjoyed, happy, elated. I'm nervous – all those wonderful emotions that come to play in a moment like this," she said. "But at the end of the day and through it all, I knew my husband was innocent and I am just so thankful beyond words that I can express right now that he is on his way home."

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  • censorbait Jul 11, 2014

    Nyfong and others did not follow proper legal procedure in many cases. That does not mean that all of the suspects in those cases are innocent. Before some celebrate turning hundreds loose thought needs to be given to actual guilt and what will happen if guilty suspects are turned loose on the public due to technicalities.

  • Duff Dry Jul 11, 2014

    This is why we cannot, as a civilized society, have a death penalty. Assuming Mr. Howard is innocent of course, this is a case where it is quite possible for him to have gotten the death penalty.

  • LetsBeFair Jul 11, 2014

    good for him ... that's the law, if there is a concern about his innocence then he should be allowed to be free

  • wayneboyd Jul 11, 2014

    It's becoming increasingly evident that our paid "officials" are costing us far more by their claiming to be protecting our rights and property than we'd actually lose if we just gave the crooks what they demand.
    If this guy has been incarcerated since '95 how many millions are taxpayers going to be on hook for his injustice. If that happens then Nifong should have to pull the same amount of time this guy has. Somebody needs to start being held accountable besides the taxpayers, if we paid you to do a job and you screwed it up, you failed, you pay.

  • stymieindurham Jul 11, 2014

    HERE WE GO!!!

  • Greg Boop Jul 11, 2014
    user avatar

    We are likely to see over 200 cases in Durham overturned with new trials ordered due to police and DA misconduct during the next three years.

    Why isn't Nifong being prosecuted and locked up for his long string of deliberate prosecutorial misconduct. He made a mockery of the entire justice system in Durham for many years, and now the chickens are coming home to roost with all of these overturned convictions.

  • Barf-olomew Jul 11, 2014

    Let's be honest about something, OK?...
    Do you really think that Nifong was/is the only corrupt person in authority/leadership in Durham? If you do, I have some oceanfront property I want to sell you down in Fuquay-Varina :-)
    If this is true, that this gentleman has lost 20 years of his life due to prosecutorial misconduct, and it appears it is true, there Nifong has just punched his frequent-flier ticket to Lucifer's palace.

    The really, really sad fact is that none of this would have come to light if the Duke Lax players weren't able to provide "expert" legal counsel and were able to discern the misconduct in that case... which then led to the others. Else, this man would probably have spent the rest of his days in prison falsely.

    BUT, again dear friends... this is Durham. No surprises. Durham has SO much to offer, but there needs to be some house-cleaning, starting at the top. It starts at the top and permeates downwind.

  • Forthe Newssite Jul 11, 2014
    user avatar

    The damage those jokers-nifong and others-did to the system will take years to fix.....too bad they can put them in jail for 80 years

  • Melvin Denis Jul 11, 2014
    user avatar

    Let's correct this injustice.