Durham man who spent nearly 24 years in prison granted pardon of innocence by Gov. Roy Cooper

DURHAM, N.C. -- A Durham man who served nearly 24 years behind bars was granted a pardon of innocence by Governor Roy Cooper on Friday.

In 1995, Darryl Anthony Howard was convicted of strangling mother, Doris Washington, and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda, and setting their apartment on fire four years prior.

He was sentenced to 80-years in prison -- two consecutive 40-year terms for the two murders and one 40-year term for the arson.

He was freed from jail in 2016 after a judge tossed his conviction, which was tried by the same prosecutor who was later disbarred for lying and misconduct in the Duke University lacrosse rape case.

The trial for Howard started in March of 1995.

Witnesses who lived in the same housing project testified they saw Howard near the crime scene.

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.

Read the pardon in it's entirety here.

"It is important to continue our efforts to reform the justice system and to acknowledge wrongful convictions," Governor Cooper wrote in a statement on Friday. "After carefully reviewing Darryl Anthony Howard's case, I am granting him this Pardon of Innocence."

After Howard was released, Durham District Attorney Roger Echols said he would not retry him in the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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