A man sitting on death row is cleared after suspected evidence of a bite mark

A Mississippi man who spent more than a quarter of a century behind the bar dismissed his proceedings last week after years of fighting a murder conviction that relied heavily on suspicious evidence.

A man, Eddie Lee Howard, 67, remained on death row, even though his conviction was merely a bite to the victim of the murder. ..

Mr Howard’s murder conviction was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court last year and released in December. Last week, the judge approved a petition to dismiss the proceedings by the Lowndes County District Attorney’s Office.

“I agree with the Supreme Court that the evidence of Bitemark is undergoing significant scrutiny,” said District Attorney Scott Colom. “There was nothing else to put Mr Howard on the scene of the murder.”

Kolom added that the DNA of weapons at crime scenes has been shown to belong to someone other than Howard. “It can be considered a disclaimer,” he said.

In 1994, Howard was convicted of murdering Georgia Kemp, 84, in 1992. Georgia Kemp was found dead at his home in Lowndes County, Miss. Kemp also suffered a matching injury to rape, but with no visible bite scars.

Expert testimony on bites came from Dr. Michael West, a Mississippi dentist searched by prosecutors nationwide in the 1980s and 1990s. He said that Kemp’s body bites he found using UV light matched Howard’s teeth.

However, Howard’s representative lawyer argued that Bitemark was not a reliable form of forensic evidence.

“In reality, there was no evidence of Eddie Lee Howard,” said Howard’s lawyer and head of strategic proceedings for the Innocence Project, Chris Fabricant. “That’s amazing.”

Evidence of the bite mark has played a role in hundreds of cases, and its use in the 1979 Ted Bundy trial drew public attention.

“When it began to be accepted in court, no one disputed its scientific validity,” said Mary Bush, a professor of forensic dentistry and bitemark analysis at the Buffalo University School of Dentistry. In 2016, he was an expert witness for Mr. Howard.

However, since then, this method has been criticized by experts who believe it is ineffective.

Because human skin is elastic, bites can easily distort, Dr. Bush said. “You can’t really use bytemarks to identify someone unless you have DNA,” she added.

Even Dr. West seems to question their value. In a testimony of another case in 2012, according to court documents, Dr. West said bytemark analysis should not be used in court.

However, when Fabricant asked him about the statement in 2016, he did not refute his testimony in Howard’s murder trial. “I can make mistakes,” he said. “In this case, do you think I made a mistake? Number.”

Attempts to call Dr. West for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

According to the Innocence Project, at least 26 people in the United States have been illegally convicted as a result of evidence of bites.

Howard was trapped in Perchman, a secure prison in the Mississippi Delta. Built on the grounds of a former plantation, the facility has a reputation for harsh conditions and violent outbreaks.

Howard was convicted twice for the same crime. His first murder conviction in 1994 was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1997. However, in 2000, when the prosecutor brought Dr. West, he was tried again and convicted.

At that time, Forest Allgood was a district attorney in Lowndes County. He also charged the cases of two other men, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer. Their conviction was based on a bytemark analysis. Dr. West also testified in these cases, and their convictions were finally overturned.

Allgood didn’t immediately return a message asking for comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Colom became the district attorney of the county in 2015. When Mr Howard’s case came to his desk, he said it was not a difficult decision to dismiss.

“This is a good example of why the criminal system must have the ability to look back and correct mistakes,” said Colom, who called for the establishment of an illegal conviction unit at the state level.

Fabricant said Howard’s unlawful conviction stemmed not only from prosecutors’ reliance on defective forensics, but also from deep-seated structural inequality.

“It’s about junk science, but it’s really about the American criminal justice system,” he said. “This is a racist and biased story based on the story of a vulnerable elderly white man attacked by a black man who was convicted without legal proceedings and sent to a former slave farm to wait for execution. It is a prosecution. “

Howard said he did his best to re-adapt to life outside the prison, enjoying what was previously inaccessible: fresh sheets, a hot bath, and working in a restaurant kitchen. It was.

Howard couldn’t comment on Wednesday. But in Fabricant’s statement, Howard thanked those who fought for his release.

“Without your efforts on my behalf, I would still be trapped in that terrible place on death row, called the Mississippi Correctional Office, waiting to be executed,” he said.

A man sitting on death row is cleared after suspected evidence of a bite mark

Source link A man sitting on death row is cleared after suspected evidence of a bite mark

Back to top button