Eddie Lee Howard was convicted of the murder of a white woman in 1994, but the murder charges were dropped due to discredited testimony.
A Mississippi judge has dismissed a murder charge against a black man who spent more than a quarter of a century on death row when a white woman was murdered in 1992.
Eddie Lee Howard, now 67, has been convicted of multiple stabbing murders punishable by stabbing death of Georgia Kemp, 84, of Lowndes County. In Mississippi, capital murder is defined as murder committed with another crime. In this case, the other crime was rape.
District Attorney Scott Colom confirmed Monday that prosecutors are dropping the murder charge against Howard.
Howard has been released from prison, his lawyers have said.
Bite testimony from a dentist that had been used to convict Howard has now been discredited, Colom said.
Additionally, he said, testing of a knife and other items found at the crime scene after Howard’s conviction found no evidence of his DNA.
Colom told The Associated Press there was not enough evidence to convict Howard “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“My ethical and legal responsibility demands that I dismiss the case,” he said.
The decision came months after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 27 that Howard deserved a new trial because his conviction was partially based on testimony from a discredited dentist. Howard was kicked out of the death row in December in response to the decision.
On February 2, 1992, Kemp’s body was found on the floor of his bedroom by firefighters. Neighbors said they saw smoke coming from her home. Kemp’s legs were bloody, she was partially exposed, a bloodied knife was on her bed and the phone line was cut, court records said.
Howard was first convicted in 1994, when he appeared at trial.
That conviction was overturned in 1997, but Howard was convicted again in 2000 after Michael West testified that the bite marks on Kemp’s neck and arm were “compatible with” Howard’s teeth, and that a bite mark on her right breast was an “identical” match to Howard’s dental impressions. The dentist also testified that he had “no doubt” left the mark by Howard, according to the Supreme Court ruling.
West testified that he was a member of the American Board of Forensic Odontology and that he followed the group’s guidelines in comparing the markings on Kemp’s body to Howard’s dental impressions that had been made as part of the case.
Since Howard’s trial, the board has revised these guidelines to prohibit such testimony, reflecting a “new scientific understanding that an individual perpetrator cannot be reliably identified by comparison of bites,” the Mississippi judges wrote. in August.
West said in a 2012 deposition that he no longer believes in the bite evidence and that it should not be used in court cases.
West has testified about the bite marks in other cases that have been overturned, including wrongful male convictions for the rape and murder of two three-year-old girls in Mississippi. Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer were subsequently cleared, based on DNA evidence. Brooks was in prison for 16 years and Brewer for 13 years.
Howard was represented by the Mississippi Innocence Project. One of his lawyers, Chris Manufacturer, said in a press release Monday that “demystified science has no place in our justice system.”
“The Mississippi Supreme Court has taken a strong stand in rejecting unwanted science as the basis on which to put a man to death,” Manufacturer said.
In a statement, Howard thanked everyone who helped make his “dream of freedom” a reality.
“Thank you with all my heart, because without your hard work on my behalf, I would still be confined to this terrible place called the Mississippi Corrections Department, in the death row, awaiting execution,” he said. he declared.