NC Appeals Court clears double-murder convict for bail
Posted July 15, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected a motion by Durham prosecutors to block bail for a man who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for a double-murder conviction marked by misconduct from Durham police and the prosecutor disbarred over the Duke lacrosse case.
The ruling clears the way for Darryl Anthony Howard, 52, to be released while he waits for prosecutors to decide whether to try him a second time.
That could happen by the end of the week, his attorney, Jim Cooney said Tuesday, and conditions of his release would likely include electronic monitoring, random drug testing and weekly check-ins with a probation officer.
"We're gratified that after 20 years in prison for crimes he didn't commit, Mr. Howard will have a chance to breathe clean air, hold his grandchildren and hug his wife," Cooney said.
Howard was sentenced to 80 years in prison after a jury, in 1995, found him guilty of two counts of second-degree murder in the 1991 drug-related deaths of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda Washington.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, however, ordered a new trial in May, after finding that former Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong and a police detective allegedly withheld evidence that could have cleared Howard.
That evidence included a police memo from four days after the murders that contradicted the lead detective's claim that he never suspected the murders involved sexual assault.
DNA from rape kits performed on both victims also excluded Howard as a match, and new testing in recent years found samples from Doris Washington’s rape kit matched the DNA of a convicted felon with a history of assaulting women.
During a hearing last week, Hudson said Howard's conviction is one of the "most horrendous prosecutions" he has seen during his 34-year career as a judge.
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.