Darryl Howard, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison after a 1995 court trial was released from the Durham County Detention center in North Carolina on Wednesday after spending 21 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
Howard was convicted of the 1991 strangling and sexual assault of 29-year-old Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda., but the judge yesterday threw out the double murder conviction and ordered Howard’s immediate and unrestricted release from prison, saying there was no DNA evidence unavailable at Howard’s 1995 trial.
According to the judge, new DNA evidence shows Howard did not rape the women, and no other physical evidence connected him to the crime as conviction was based heavily on testimony of witnesses at the Durham public housing project where killings occurred.
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said on Wednesday
‘I don’t see any reason he can’t be released today,’
DNA tests unavailable at the time of Howard’s original trial identified the man who had sex with Doris Washington shortly before her 1991 death as Jermeck Jones, who dated Nishonda before her death and the DNA tests also proved her killer was Jones.
Jones was identified as the killer from DNA samples stored in a federal database. Jones’ criminal history includes 35 convictions, including several assaults against women, the Charlotte Observer reported last year. Jones refused to answer questions from Howard’s attorneys, saying he had constitutional right against incriminating himself.
Upon being freed on Wednesday, Howard was received by his wife Nannie, who married him several years after he was convicted.