Local News

Another inmate accuses Durham prosecutors of misconduct

Posted August 12, 2014 4:18 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2014 11:35 a.m. EDT

— A Durham man convicted 14 years ago of raping a young girl is seeking a new trial, alleging that Durham County prosecutors withheld evidence from his original defense attorney before his trial.

David Yearwood, 46, is serving a 31-year sentence in Harnett Correctional Institution on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense, indecent liberties with a child and breaking and entering.

Yearwood has maintained he never attacked a 12-year-old girl in the old West Durham neighborhood, and his attorneys cite material from the files of former prosecutor Tracey Cline as evidence backing up Yearwood's claim.

A report from the State Bureau of Investigation showing hairs found at the scene didn't belong to Yearwood was never turned over to the defense before the 2000 trial, attorneys say.

His new defense team obtained access to Cline's files in 2011 under a judge's order.

Yearwood's case was among several that prompted a 2011 feud between Cline, who was then the district attorney, and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. Cline was removed from office in March 2012 after a judge found her accusations that Hudson was biased against her office detrimental to the justice system.

Assistant District Attorney Cindy Kenney said Tuesday that prosecutors handed over all necessary records to Yearwood's attorney in 2000.

Eric Preddy, a former Durham police officer, told Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson that he still remembers the young rape victim in the case, saying her pain made a major impact on him and other officers.

A hearing to determine whether Yearwood will win a new trial is expected at last two to three days, as witnesses testify about the details of the original case.

Yearwood is the latest inmate to allege misconduct by the Durham County District Attorney's Office.

Hudson four years ago granted a new trial to Derrick Michael Allen, ruling that prosecutors coerced a confession from him in the 1998 sex assault and murder of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter and that they then stopped DNA tests in the case because they believed the results might point to someone else.

Three months ago, Hudson threw out the convictions against Darryl Howard for the 1991 murders of a woman and her daughter. The judge ruled that DNA tests that didn't match Howard weren't disclosed to defense attorneys and that prosecutors misled jurors in saying that sex assault wasn't a motive in the killings.