DURHAM: NC appeals court clears imprisoned man for bail - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

NC appeals court clears imprisoned man for bail

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Darryl Howard, 52, was found guilty of double-murder in 1995. Darryl Howard, 52, was found guilty of double-murder in 1995.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A North Carolina appeals court on Tuesday cleared the way to free a man who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for a double-murder conviction marked by misconduct from police and the prosecutor disbarred over the Duke lacrosse case.

The state Court of Appeals dissolved a previous order for state prosecutors seeking to deny bail. The move clears the way for a Durham judge to release Darryl Howard, 52, while he waits for prosecutors to decide whether to try him a second time.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said last week he intends to free Howard on unsecured bond with electronic monitoring.

Hudson ruled in May that authorities withheld evidence during his 1995 trial that could have exonerated Howard and that he must be retried. The judge ruled evidence recently surfaced showing possible misconduct in the case by a Durham detective and former Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong, who was disbarred after the Duke lacrosse case.

State investigators determined in 2007 that Nifong lied and withheld evidence proving the innocence of Duke University lacrosse players, who were charged with raping a stripper during a 2006 team party.

The earliest Howard could be released would be later this week after working through the legal process, said Jim Cooney, a Charlotte attorney working to free Howard.

It was unclear whether prosecutors planned further efforts to keep Howard in prison until a new trial, a process that Cooney said could take about a year. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Roy Cooper had no immediate response.

Howard was sentenced to 80 years in prison after he was convicted in the strangling of 29-year-old Doris Washington and her daughter, 13-year-old Nishonda. Both were sexually assaulted, and their apartment was burned.

Nifong, who prosecuted Howard in 1995, failed to share with Howard's defense attorneys a police memo and other evidence that pointed to other suspects, Hudson ruled in May.

Hudson said last week he remembered observing Howard's murder trial and called it "a horrendous prosecution" that ignored that "there was extremely credible, strong evidence that Mr. Howard did not commit" the crime.

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