Local News

Mike Nifong accused of misconduct in another Durham case

Posted June 16, 2016 5:13 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2016 6:41 p.m. EDT

— A Durham man's effort to clear himself of a double-murder more than two decades ago raises more prosecutorial misconduct allegations against discredited former District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Darryl Anthony Howard, 54, was convicted in 1995 of two counts of second-degree murder in the 1991 drug-related deaths of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda Washington. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ordered a new trial in the case in May 2014, ruling that Nifong and a police detective withheld evidence suggesting that Doris Washington was raped and killed by a New York gang for which she dealt drugs – evidence that could have cleared Howard.

DNA evidence also implicated another man, not Howard, in the crime.

The state Court of Appeals reversed Hudson's ruling in April, however, ordering a hearing so that attorneys for the state could present evidence to show why the convictions against Howard should stand.

"The eyewitness testimony is this case was overwhelming that the defendant had committed this crime," Assistant Attorney General Mary Carla Babb argued to the appeals court last year.

Howard's attorneys, prosecutors and Hudson met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss plans for the hearing, which is scheduled for late August.

Prosecutors declined to comment after the meeting, but Howard's attorneys blamed Nifong for what they believe is the conviction of an innocent man.

"Not only did we have DNA testing, which we believe proves Mr. Howard's innocence, but also we think we have, we've alleged egregious prosecutorial misconduct," said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.

Scheck said it's "astonishing" that Nifong didn't turn a police memo about Doris Washington's sexual assault over to Howard's original defense attorneys and even argued at trial that the case didn't involve rape.

"This is the worst kind of prosecutorial misconduct that you can have. It's like knowingly misleading the jury," Scheck said. "I think it's extremely troubling that it's Mike Nifong."

Nifong was disbarred for his handling of sex assault allegations against three member of the Duke University men's lacrosse team a decade ago.

If Hudson again rules after the August hearing that Howard deserves a new trial, prosecutors will have to determine whether to proceed with the case or dismiss the charges against him.