Court Overturns Double Murder Conviction in North Carolina
On Tuesday, a North Carolina district court reversed the double murder conviction and ordered a new trial for Darryl Anthony Howard based on prosecutorial misconduct and new DNA evidence pointing to other suspects. Darryl always maintained his innocence in the 1991 double homicide of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nichanda. He was arrested for the crime nearly a year after it occurred although there was never any physical evidence linking him to the crime.
Durham police detective Daryl Dowdy testified that the crimes were never suspected to involve a sexual assault despite clear physical evidence of sexual assault to both victims. Through open file discovery, however, the Innocence Project uncovered a police memo that reveals that Durham police received a detailed tip from a confidential informant four days after the murders that the crimes involved sexual assault and the victims were murdered by more than one perpetrator – information that former prosecutor Mike Nifong never turned over to Darryl’s attorneys. DNA testing before trial excluded Darryl as the source of biological evidence recovered from the daughter, and new DNA testing has excluded him as the source of semen found in the mother.
The prosecutorial misconduct in Darryl’s case casts a spotlight again on the Durham justice system since it was Nifong who was disbarred and held in contempt for his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case. Read more about the case.
Federal Agencies to Record Custodial Interrogations
A memo issued by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole earlier this month stipulated that, beginning in July, law enforcement must record all interviews that take place after a suspect has been arrested in connection with a federal crime. The memo states that video recording is preferred, but audio recording will suffice when cameras aren’t available. It also says that limited exceptions will be made when a suspect doesn’t want to be recorded or when an interrogation is being conducted to obtain information to be used to protect public safety instead of to gather evidence to be presented in court.
The Innocence Project has long advocated that electronic recording of interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions. According to the New York Times, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Federal agents and prosecutors throughout the nation are firmly committed to due process in their rigorous and evenhanded enforcement of the law. This new recording policy not only reaffirms our steadfast commitment to these ideals — it will provide verifiable evidence that our words are matched by our deeds.”
Read more about the benefits of recording interrogations.
Wrongful Conviction Reform Moves Forward in the States
Several states have passed or are close to passing important reforms endorsed by the Innocence Project that will help prevent wrongful convictions or assist the innocent who have been wrongfully imprisoned. In Maryland, we helped pass a bill that will put procedures in place to prevent eyewitness misidentifications. With our support, Vermont and New Jersey passed bills improving the compensation laws for those who have been wrongfully convicted, and the Minnesota Innocence Project helped to pass a bill guaranteeing compensation for the wrongly convicted in that state.
Bills are nearing passage in Illinois, Vermont and Louisiana, and we continue to push for comprehensive reform in New York. To read more about the effort in New York, click here.
Why I Give
Several years ago, I went to see the off-Broadway play, The Exonerated, which details the true stories of six innocent death row survivors. It was my first exposure to the inner workings of the criminal justice process and both the individual and societal effects of wrongful convictions. It had a profound impact on me, and it opened my eyes and ears to the innocence movement.
As a professional fundraiser, I have had the privilege of working with numerous non-profit organizations around the country. It is an honor to work for each organization, but the Innocence Project’s mission particularly resonates with me. The Innocence Project’s work is transformative for the innocent who hold dear the prospect of freedom and for society as a whole. We all benefit immeasurably from a justice system that is continually held accountable by its citizenry and from the contributions that the wrongfully convicted make by fighting to expose the flaws in the system.
I recently found out that I could name an organization (in the place of, or along with, an individual) as the beneficiary to my retirement savings plan and life insurance policy. Many people miss opportunities to leave a legacy gift through these avenues – you don’t need to be wealthy with a huge estate to make a lasting philanthropic mark as an individual. I decided to leave my retirement funds and life insurance to the Innocence Project. After all, I think it’s the greatest legacy I could ever leave.
Join Kenya in supporting the Innocence Project by making a donation to our Spring fundraising campaign today!
To learn more about including the Innocence Project in your estate planning, contact Audrey Levitin, Director of Development, at 212-364-5356.