After years of fighting to be convicted of murder, which relied heavily on incriminating evidence, a man from Mississippi dismissed his case last week for more than a quarter of the time spent behind bars.
The man, 67-year-old Eddie Lee Howard, remained on the death line, even though his sentence was little more than a bite mark on a murder victim who was presented as evidence by an expert at his trial, Whose testimony has since been called into question.
Mr. Howard’s conviction for capital murder was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court last year, and he was released in December. Last week, a judge approved a motion by the Lawndes County District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the case.
“I agree with the Supreme Court that the evidence of the mark has been cut under critical scrutiny,” said Scott Coleman, District Attorney. “Apart from that evidence, there was nothing other than Mr. Howard at the murder scene.”
Mr. Kollam stated that DNA was shown on a weapon at the crime scene with none other than Mr. Howard. “They can be seen as provocative,” he said.
In 1994, Mr. Howard was convicted in 1992 of killing 84 people of Georgia Kemp, who was found dead at his home in Lowes County, Miss. An autopsy found that according to court records, he died of two stab wounds, and that Ms. . Kemp also had sustained injuries with rape – but no bite marks.
Expert testimony on bite marks Mississippi dentist Dr. Came from Michael West, who was sought by prosecutors around the country in the 1980s and 1990s. He said that the bite marks on Ms. Kemp’s body, which she found using ultraviolet light, matched Mr. Howard’s teeth.
But lawyers representing Mr. Howard have argued that the bite marks were not a reliable form of forensic evidence.
“The reality is, there was never any evidence against Eddie Lee Howard,” said Chris fabricantAn attorney for Mr. Howard and director of strategic litigation with the Innocence Project. “this is amazing.”
Bit-mark evidence has played a role in hundreds of cases, and its use in the 1979 trial of Ted Bundy made it into public headlines.
“As it began to gain admissibility in court, no one was really challenging its scientific validity,” said Mary Bush, a professor at the University of Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine who works in forensic dentistry and Specialists in the analysis of denture. Served as an expert witness for Mr. Howard in 2016.
But over the years, the method has been Criticized by experts Those who see it as ineffective.
Because human skin is elastic, bite marks can easily deform, Dr. Bush said. “Unless you have DNA, you can’t really use bite marks to identify anyone,” she said.
Even Dr. West has questioned his value. Court documents state that for a separate case in 2012, Drs. West said he did not think the bite marks should be analyzed in court.
But when Mr. Fabricant questioned him about that statement in 2016, he did not give his testimony in the trial of Mr. Howard’s murder. “I can make mistakes,” he said. Do I think I made a mistake in this case? No.”
Dr. for comment by phone on Wednesday. An attempt to reach the West was unsuccessful.
According, at least 26 people in the United States have been convicted as a result of evidence of wrongful cutting. Innocence project.
Mr. Howard was lodged in the high-security prison parishman in Missman Delta. Built on a pre-plantation basis, the facility has a reputation for harsh conditions and Violent outbreak.
Mr. Howard was twice convicted of the same crime. His first capital murder case was overturned in 1994 by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1997. But he was tried again in 2000 – when the prosecution Dr. Brought to West – and convicted.
At the time, Forrest Algood was the district attorney of Lowends County. He also prosecuted the cases of two other men – Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer – Whose convulsions were based on the analysis of bite marks. Dr. West also testified in those cases, and those convictions were eventually overturned.
Mr. Allgood did not immediately return a message requesting comment on Wednesday.
Mr. Colum became the county’s district attorney in 2015. When Mr. Howard’s case came to his desk, he said, dismissing it was not a difficult decision.
“This is a great example of why we have the ability, in the criminal system, to look back and correct errors,” said Mr. Colum, who has Called for installation A misdemeanor unit at the state level.
Mr. Fabricant stated that Mr. Howard’s misconception stemmed not only from the plaintiffs’ reliance on faulty forensics, but also from structural inequalities with deep roots.
“It’s a story about junk science, but it’s really about the American criminal justice system,” he said. “This is a racist, biased prosecution based on a story about a frail, elderly white man attacking a black man who was convicted with zero due process and waiting to be hanged Was sent to a former slave plantation. “
Mr. Howard said, doing outright injustice to life outside of prison, enjoying things he previously had no access to – fresh sheets, hot baths – and working in the kitchen of a restaurant.
Mr. Howard was not available for comment on Wednesday. But in a statement given by Mr. Fabricant, Mr. Howard thanked those who fought for his release.
“Without your hard work on my part,” he said, “I would still be confined in that dreadful place called the Mississippi Department of Corrections, in death row, waiting to be hanged.”