Darryl Howard has spent nearly two and a half years in prison for two murders that he and attorneys working with the Innocence Project maintain he did not commit.
In 2014, he had a flutter of hope that he would get relief from incarceration after Judge Orlando Hudson vacated his convictions and ordered a new trial.
The state appealed, and in April of this year a three-judge N.C. Court of Appeals panel overturned Hudson’s decision and instead ordered a hearing on Howard’s post-conviction claims.
In a case that has illustrated how the wheels of justice can churn, stall, sputter, stall and roll again, attorneys for Howard and prosecutors met in the judge’s chambers on Thursday and set a hearing for the end of August to air many of the same concerns he did two years ago.
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The hearing, which could span several days, will touch on newly discovered DNA evidence that defense attorneys contend implicates another man in the 1991 slayings of Doris Washington, 29, and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda.
It also will weigh the recantation of a witness.
It could also bring former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong back to the courtroom because of Howard’s prosecutorial misconduct allegations.
With a police document uncovered while researching Howard’s claims of innocence, defense attorneys have contended that Nifong pushed ahead with the Howard prosecution despite evidence that did not fit the police narrative in the case. Nifong was later disbarred for his misconduct in the Duke lacrosse case.
Prosecutors and attorneys representing them on appeal have argued that jurors had much of the same information at the trial in 1995. They have noted that defense attorneys told jurors that DNA evidence collected from the victims did not belong to Howard and yet the jury still arrived at the guilty verdicts.