A Durham judge has overturned the conviction of Darryl Anthony Howard, who in 1995 was found guilty of a double-murder. Howard, who has spent the last 19 years in prison, is effectively serving a life sentence.
The case made recent national headlines
when it was suggested that former District Attorney Mike Nifong, along with a police detective, withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from Howard's defense attorneys.
There was no physical evidence linking Howard to the crime scene, a public housing complex in which a woman and her 13-year-old daughter were murdered. New evidence shows that sperm DNA found on one of the murder victims matched that of a career felon convicted of 35 crimes.
In his ruling, Durham Superior Judge Orlando Hudson cited a police memo describing a tip that the murders were gang related, but there is no evidence that Nifong passed the memo along to Howard's attorneys.
"[T]his Court concludes that the State presented materially misleading and false testimony from Det. Dowdy and that ADA Nifong made a materially misleading and false argument to the Jury," Hudson wrote in his 28-page ruling.
The memo was discovered by Innocence Project researchers.
The state has 30 days to appeal Hudson's ruling. If it declines to appeal Hudson's ruling, Howard's lawyer could file a motion seeking his release from prison, where he is now awaiting a new trial.