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Innocent Man Freed after 19 Years in Prison

Yet Another Corrupt Conviction - Here a North Carolina man is to be freed 19 years later, after the prosecutors withheld evidence that could have resulted in his acquittal, and let a police officer lie to the jury. And they still want to retry him!  Prosecutors never want to admit they were wrong - even if that means an innocent man remains in prison.

Marti Maguire from Reuters reported this week about man who spent nearly two decades in prison for a murder he did not commit will be released as early as this week as he awaits a new trial. The victims were raped and murdered, semen was found, and the DNA profile excludes the defendant. The original prosecutor's answer? The rapes were unrelated to the murders - I guess these victims just had really bad luck, being victimized twice in one day and by two different sets of criminals. (And this prosecutor has since been disbarred - one of the very, very rare instances where a crooked prosecutor has ever been even partially held to account for his crimes - but he should have been sent to prison for at least as long as the innocent men who he sent there.)

After all the lying, cheating and covering up of evidence of innocence, the prosecutors insist on re-trying him anyway, instead of looking for the real rapists and killers.

Darryl Anthony Howard, 52, was awarded a new trial in May after a judge found misconduct during his 1995 conviction. On Tuesday, a state appeals court denied prosecutors' request to keep Howard behind bars until they try him again, paving the way for his release. Can you imagine? They even wanted him held without bail after they cheated him into 20 years of prison - so far!

In overturning Howard's conviction, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson found that prosecutors withheld evidence and that a police officer misled the jury. Hudson called Howard's prosecution one of the "most horrendous" he's seen in a 34-year career.

The district attorney who initially prosecuted Howard, Michael Nifong, was disbarred in 2007 for his role in prosecuting several members of the Duke University lacrosse team who were falsely accused of rape.

No physical evidence connected Howard to the deaths of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter Nishonda in a Durham housing complex in 1991. Shortly after the murders, a tipster implicated two members of a drug-related gang called the New York Boys in the crime. A police record of that account, which included references to the victims' rape that had not been publicized at the time, was never shared with Howard's defense attorneys.

DNA tests at the time showed that semen found in the victims was not Howard's, but Nifong argued in court that the murders were unrelated to a sexual assault. But recent tests linked the samples to a convicted felon with a history of assaulting women.

The current prosecutors have promised to retry Howard, and even had the audacity to ask on Friday that he be held in jail rather than released on bail until his new trial. They cited his criminal record before the arrests, which included convictions for armed robbery and breaking and entering. The Court of Appeals was justifiably unimpressed.

His defense lawyer from The Innocence Project had hoped prosecutors would choose not to seek a new trial, and instead focus on prosecuting the alternate suspects implicated by DNA tests. But no such luck. Once the system has nabbed you, they never, ever want to admit any kind of mistake, much less corrupt motives.

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