North Carolina Court Points to Prosecutorial Misconduct in Conviction Reversal


On Tuesday, a North Carolina district court reversed the double murder conviction of Darryl Anthony Howard based on prosecutorial misconduct and new DNA evidence pointing to other suspects, and ordered a new trial. The

News and Observer

reported that former prosecutor Mike Nifong and Durham police detective Daryl Dowdy violated Howard’s constitutional rights by failing to turn over exculpatory evidence and giving false and misleading testimony.


Howard always maintained his innocence of the 1991 double homicide of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nichanda. The victims were found naked and strangled on a bed in their burned apartment. Howard was arrested for the crime nearly a year after it occurred although there was never any physical evidence linking him to the crime.


Dowdy testified that the crimes were never suspected to involve a sexual assault despite clear physical evidence of sexual assault to both victims. Through open file discovery, however, 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. DNA testing before trial excluded Howard as the source of sperm recovered from the daughter, and new DNA testing has excluded him as the source of semen found in the mother.


According to the

News and Observer

, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson wrote in an order released Tuesday: “It is undisputed that there was and is no physical evidence connecting Howard to this crime scene or to these victims.”


The prosecutorial misconduct in Howard’s case casts a spotlight again on the Durham justice system since it was Nifong who was disbarred and held in contempt for his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case.


Hudson wrote in his order: “This Court concludes that the State presented materially misleading and false testimony from Det. Dowdy’s testimony and that ADA Nifong made a materially misleading and false argument to the jury.”


Tuesday’s ruling comes two months after Howard’s legal team at the Innocence Project and James P. Cooney, III, a partner with Womble Carlyle, filed court documents asking for his conviction to be overturned.


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