Darryl Howard was awarded $6 million after it was revealed he was wrongfully convicted of murder. It wasn't a mistaken identity, the 58-year-old man spent 23 years in prison because the evidence against him was fabricated. Now the city of Durham, North Carolina is refusing to pay up.
"Later, DNA testing of samples taken from one of the bodies showed sperm left by a convicted felon who has a history of drug dealing and violence against women, Howard's attorneys from the New York-based Innocence Project said in court filings," a 2021 report recalled.
The News and Observer reported Thursday that despite winning his lawsuit, his freedom and a judgment against the city, Howard can't get his money.
"I proved my innocence. I went through every court,” he said. “Every judge says what this was, even the governor. I don’t understand that. Now I have to fight again.”
The trial took about a month, but it took just an hour for the jury to come back with a verdict against Durham. Still, the city spent $4 million just to fight against Howard.
Retired detective Darrell Dowdy was found to have invented evidence against Howard in a shoddy investigation. The detective was employed for 36 years, where the city gave him "the power that led to Howard spending over two decades incarcerated after a Durham County jury found him guilty" in 1991.
The city council made the decision that they would not pay Howard the $6 million in a series of closed-door sessions. So, the city agreed to pay for Dowdy's $4 million attorneys fees to defend his work for them, but they're refusing to pay for the crime against Howard.
The city passed a resolution saying that they believe it’s in the public interest to settle judgments against the city “if the facts and circumstances of the claim or the suit in which the judgment is entered show that the officer or employee was engaged in the good faith performance of his duties on behalf of the City when the act or omission giving rise to the claim or suit occurred,” wrote City Attorney Kimberly Rehberg. She added an emphasis on "good faith."
It might be financially advantageous for the city of Durham now, but a municipality can't make a rule that supersedes a federal court's decision.
“A jury of Mr. Dowdy’s peers determined that Mr. Dowdy engaged in fabrication of evidence and a bad faith failure to investigate,” Rehberg wrote.
Mayor Pro Tempore Mark-Anthony Middleton was asked why the city was willing to fork over $4 million in attorneys fees to defend Dowdy but not to pay Howard, but he refused to comment.
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