Appeals Court clears double-murder convict for bail

Jul. 15, 2014 @ 07:31 PM

N.C. Court of Appeals judges have cleared the way for Durham’s top trial judge to release from prison a man who claims DNA evidence shows he was falsely convicted of murder.

The court’s decision left it in the hands of lawyers for Darryl A. Howard and local prosecutors to work out the specific terms of Howard’s release on bond while appeals judges decide whether he should get a new trial.

Durham’s senior resident Superior Court Judge, Orlando Hudson, told lawyers last week he intends to give Howard unsecured bond, subject to conditions including electronic monitoring and limitations on his travel.

Howard’s lead lawyer, Jim Cooney, said early Tuesday evening he’d finished drafting a bond order for Hudson’s signature. Per the judge’s request, he sent it to prosecutors for their comment.

Cooney thinks Hudson will approve the order Thursday, without another hearing unless prosecutors ask for one.

Once the judge signs the document, “it’ll only be a few hours until [Howard’s] released,” Cooney said.

Howard has been in prison since 1995, when he was convicted of the slayings of Doris Washington and her daughter Nishonda.

Police and prosecutors theorized at the time that the murders grew out of some sort of dispute between Doris Washington and Howard.

But DNA recovered from one of the women indicated recent sexual contact with another man who escaped charges in the case. Howard’s lawyers believe both were sexually assaulted and that Howard’s prosecutor, former District Mike Nifong, covered up an informant’s tip that tied the case to a drug gang called the “New York Boys.”

Hudson in May ruled that Howard is entitled to a new trial. State Attorney General Roy Cooper’s staff has asked the Court of Appeals to overturn that ruling. It also requested the stay, which would have denied Hudson jurisdiction to grant Howard bond.

Lawyers said last week that any travel restrictions aside from taking in Durham should allow Howard to go to Wake County, so he can attend the appellate proceedings, and to Orange County, so he can pursue job opportunities.

Other conditions will require Howard to obey a curfew, submit to random drug screening and attend substance-abuse programs, Cooney said.