‘They know I didn’t do it,’ Darryl Howard says after release from prison

Darryl Howard hugs his attorney after judge announces his release.
Darryl Howard hugs his attorney after judge announces his release.

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham district attorney’s office filed paperwork Friday to dismiss charges against Darryl Howard, a man convicted of a double murder in 1995.

Darryl Howard walked out of jail Wednesday celebrating with his family as he tasted freedom for the first time in more than two decades.

Earlier that day, a judge threw out Darryl Howard’s double-murder conviction and allowed him to go home after 21 years in prison.

Documents filed Friday and signed by assistant district attorney Stormy Ellis show the dismissal of two murder charges and an arson charge.

The 54-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison for the 1991 murders of a mother and daughter but the judge said Darryl Howard’s defense had proven there was reasonable doubt he committed the crimes.

In the case of Darryl Howard, new DNA evidence surfaced that was not available when he was first convicted in 1995.

“It was a very trying experience, but at the end it was worth it,” Darryl Howard told CBS North Carolina.

Darryl and Nannie Howard had only hoped one day they’d be here together, under the same roof, living as husband and wife.

“We had to complete this, not because it was something we started and we just wanted to do it. It’s like, we cared about each other and we loved each other and we wanted to make sure we end this the right way,” Nannie Howard said.

The case was originally tried by then Assistant District Attorney Mike Nifong, who was later disbarred and held in contempt for his actions in the Duke Lacrosse case.

Darryl Howard’s attorneys argued Nifong withheld evidence that pointed to other suspects.

Darryl Howard learned Friday he would not be re-tried for the 1991 murders of Doris Washington and her daughter Nishonda.

The Durham district attorney’s office said the evidence isn’t sufficient for another trial.

“We got the news and it came over the phone,” Darryl Howard said.

Getting news like that on the phone is just one part of adjusting to life outside for Darryl Howard.

Nannie had to tell Darrly no one makes flip phones anymore. He wanted one after his release.

There have been difficult moments, like reconnecting with Darryl Howard’s mother.

“My mom, she’s got Alzheimer’s, that hurt. But, she’s still breathing. That’s the most beautiful part. I went to see her the other day. She saw me, she said, ‘hey baby.’ And, I was just looking at her, I started crying. We were crying,” he said.

Darryl Howard is now looking for look and also looking to advocate for other like himself.

“This kind of stuff can’t keep happening. It was clear. The part that hurt me the most is, they know I didn’t do it. They knew before they arrested me, I didn’t do it,” Darryl Howard said.

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