NC man exonerated on murder charge after 21 years wins $6M lawsuit but city refuses to pay

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A Durham, North Carolina man who won a $6 million lawsuit after being wrongfully convicted on two murder charges will likely never see the money after the Durham City Council decided against paying him.

Darryl Anthony Howard, who was exonerated in 2016 and pardoned in 2021 by Gov. Roy Cooper after serving 21 years of an 80-year jail sentence, was awarded $6 million by a federal grand jury in December, according to The News & Observer.

Darryl Anthony Howard (left) wipes away tears after Judge Orlando Hudson rules to vacate his murder conviction on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.

Darryl Anthony Howard (left) wipes away tears after Judge Orlando Hudson rules to vacate his murder conviction on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.
(Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Howard had been convicted in 1995 on two counts of second-degree murder and one count of arson, though a judge vacated the convictions and ordered Howard’s release because of DNA evidence unavailable at the time.

PROSECUTOR DROPS CASE AGAINST MAN IMPRISONED FOR 2 DECADES

The jury also found that Howard’s wrongful convictions were a result of retired detective Darrell Dowdy fabricating evidence and performing an inadequate investigation.

Darryl Anthony Howard (middle) and wife Nannie Howard (right) leave the Durham County Detention Center victorious with their lawyers and family on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.

Darryl Anthony Howard (middle) and wife Nannie Howard (right) leave the Durham County Detention Center victorious with their lawyers and family on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.
(Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

In a series closed-door session meetings between December and February, however, the Durham City Council voted against paying the judgment on Dowdy’s behalf. The city also expects Howard to pay the legal fees of the two city employees who were dismissed from the case, according to legal documents.

Howard and his attorney found the city’s decision concerning, especially after it paid more than $4 million defending Dowdy.

Former prosecutor Mike Nifong, who originally handled Howard’s case, was disbarred for lying and misconduct in the case of rape accusations against Duke University lacrosse players who were later found innocent.

Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, goes over copies of police notes during a hearing for relief in the Darryl Anthony Howard murder case at the Durham County Judicial Center in Durham, North Carolina, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.

Barry Scheck, co-director of the New York-based Innocence Project, goes over copies of police notes during a hearing for relief in the Darryl Anthony Howard murder case at the Durham County Judicial Center in Durham, North Carolina, on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016.
(Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“I proved my innocence. I went through every court,” Howard told The News & Observer. “Every judge says what this was, even the governor.”

“I don’t understand that,” he said. “Now I have to fight again.”

The City of Durham did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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