USA - Mississippi. Based on DNA evicence conviction and death sentence of Eddie Lee Howard overturned
|USA - Eddie Lee Howard (Mississippi)
August 27, 2020:
The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of Eddie Lee Howard based on new DNA evidence and the unreliability of bite-mark testimony used at Howard’s trial.
Howard, now 67, Black, was convicted in 1994 for the rape and murder of an 84-year-old woman in Lowndes County.
Howard was arrested in 1992 for the February 1992 murder of an elderly white woman, Georgia Kemp, in Columbus. He was convicted primarily based on bite mark comparison evidence and sentenced to death in 1994. The Mississippi Supreme Court vacated that conviction and sentence, but Howard was tried and convicted again in 2000. He has been on Mississippi’s death row for 26 years.
The Court voted 8-1 today to reverse an earlier decision of the trial court that had denied Howard a new trial. The appeals court ruled that the evidence presented to the trial court undermined the trial testimony of forensic odontologist Dr. Michael West, who claimed that Howard’s bite marks “indeed and without doubt” were present on the victim’s body.
During post-conviction proceedings, Howard’s counsel introduced new evidence that Howard’s DNA was not present in any of the samples taken from the victim’s body, her clothing, her bedsheets, or the murder weapon. Analysts concluded that one of the samples from the murder weapon contained the DNA of an unidentified man who was not Howard. Counsel also presented evidence that the American Board of Forensic Odontology (ABFO) had changed its guidelines in 2013 and 2016, now explicitly prohibiting forensic odontologists from identifying bite marks as belonging to a particular person. It noted that Dr. West had emphasized his adherence to ABFO practices to gain the confidence of the jury at trial, but had since been reprimanded by the organization for violating its guidelines. The Court ruled that Dr. West’s identification testimony lacked a scientific basis and was inadmissible. Finding that testimony inadmissible, it held that the new DNA evidence and the lack of other evidence tying Howard to the crime required setting the conviction aside.
The Court also noted that Dr. West’s testimony in other cases had led to the wrongful convictions of death row exoneree Kennedy Brewer and his co-defendant Levon Brooks.
https://law.olemiss.edu/mississippi-innocence-project-client-death-sentence-vacated/ (Sources: DPIC, wlbt.com, 27/08/2020)