Jury awards North Carolina man $6M after ruling police fabricated evidence

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A federal jury awarded a North Carolina man who spent nearly 24 years in prison $6 million on Wednesday after ruling that a detective fabricated evidence that led to double murder and arson convictions.

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The jury in Winston-Salem found former Durham police detective Darryl Dowdy made up evidence and performed an inadequate investigation that resulted in the 1995 conviction of Darryl Anthony Howard, of Durham, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

Howard was convicted for the murders of Doris Washington, 29, and Nishonda Washington, 13, according to the newspaper. He had been accused of strangling the two victims and then setting their apartment on fire, WTVD reported.

He was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but Howard’s convictions were vacated by a Durham County judge, who cited police and prosecutorial misconduct, WRAL reported.

Howard received a pardon of innocence from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in April 2021, according to the television station.

In 2017, Howard filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that accused Dowdy, the city of Durham and others of actions that resulted in Howard being wrongfully convicted, The News & Observer reported. The lawsuit was later changed to only include Dowdy as a defendant, the newspaper reported.

“I am happy about the verdict, but I am kind of upset about the damages,” Howard told The News & Observer. “Just imagine, 23 years I stayed in prison.”

Nick Ellis, one of Dowdy’s attorneys, said he was disappointed with the verdict but added that he respects the jury’s decision.

“We have confidence in the investigation Detective Dowdy conducted,” Ellis told WRAL.