Judge Frees Innocent Darryl Howard After 21 Years In Jail

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A man who spent 21 years in prison has been freed after a judge threw out his double-murder conviction.

Darryl Howard, who had always maintained his innocence, told cheering supporters and news crews he was “going home” following an emotional reunion with his wife Nannie.

The 54-year-old was convicted of strangling and sexual assaulting Doris Washington, 29, and her 13-year-old daughter Nishonda in 1991.

He has been exonerated by DNA evidence which has since come to light, proving he did not rape the women.

Mr Howard told regional newspaper The News & Observer he was excited about seeing his grandchildren and “getting on with his life”.

He also said he was not angry.

“There’s no time to be angry,” he said. “I’m thankful this is over … I’m just happy right now.”

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said if the DNA evidence had been available at Mr Howard’s 1995 murder trial, it would have created a reasonable doubt for jurors.

There was no other physical evidence connecting him to the crime, Fox News reported.

Judge Hudson threw out the double-murder conviction – and Mr Howard’s 80-year sentence – ordering his immediate and unrestricted release.

The case caused controversy as it was prosecuted by former district attorney Mike Nifong, who was later disbarred for lying and misconduct in the Duke lacrosse rape case in 2006 – when three members of the North Carolina university’s men’s team were falsely accused.

Mr Nifong had been expected to testify about his handling of Mr Howard’s case and whether misconduct from police and prosecutors helped win a conviction, Fox News reported.

But prosecutors decided not to appeal the judge’s order quashing the conviction, which meant he did not have to take to the stand.

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