Darryl Howard, who was released from prison last year after a judge overturned his convictions in the 1991 murders of a Durham woman and her teenage daughter, is suing the city of Durham and a police officer he says fabricated and suppressed evidence.
The civil suit was filed in U.S. District Court last month and names the city, four then-employees of the Durham Police Department, and a Durham fire official as defendants. The lawsuit claims the defendants violated Howard's constitutional rights and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Durham City Attorney Patrick Baker said the city is reviewing the suit and declined to comment.
Howard, now fifty-five, was convicted of arson and second-degree murder in 1995, about four years after Doris Washington and her thirteen-year-old daughter, Nishonda, were found raped and murdered in their apartment in Durham's Few Gardens neighborhood. The prosecutor on the case, Mike Nifong, was disbarred
in 2007 for his handling of the Duke lacrosse rape case.
Howard served twenty-one years in prison before DNA evidence that exonerated him and implicated another man led Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson to overturn his convictions in September 2016. That same week, Durham District Attorney Roger Echols announced
he would not pursue a new trial against Howard. Throughout his incarceration, Howard maintained his innocence.
The suit contends that DPD investigator Darrell Dowdy "ignored and suppressed early evidence" that members of a gang known as the New York Boys had raped and murdered Washington and her daughter, "recruited" witnesses to make false statements to ensure a conviction, and gave false testimony himself. The suit also says DPD failed for four and a half years to turn over a recording of the man implicated by DNA testing following Howard's conviction making incriminating statements.
"As a direct and proximate result of Defendants unconstitutional acts and omissions, Howard was prevented from having access to evidence that would have exonerated him, was prevented from benefiting from state statutes that afforded him the right to prove his innocence, endured a wrongful extension of his wrongful incarceration, and suffered physical, emotional, and pecuniary damages," the suit says.
According to the city, Dowdy worked for the police department from 1979 to 2007. E.E. Sarvis, Michele Soucie and Scott Pennica, also named as defendants in the suit, are still employed by the department.
The case was assigned June 1 to Judges Thomas Schroeder and Joi Elizabeth Peake.
You can read the full complaint here: