Former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, has been accused of misconduct again in the case of a 1995 double homicide.
WRAL reported that in 1995—while Nifong was district attorney—Darryl Anthony Howard was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder for the 1991 deaths of Doris Washington and her 13-year-old daughter, Nishonda Washington. Howard was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
In May 2014, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ordered a new trial for the case. Hudson ruled that Nifong and a police detective who worked on the case withheld evidence suggesting that Doris Washington was raped and murdered by the New York gang for which she dealt drugs. This evidence—along with the fact that the DNA in this case implicated another man—could have proven Howard’s innocence.
Howard's attorneys, prosecutors and Hudson last month to discuss plans for the new hearing, which is scheduled for late August, according to WRAL.
According to a Washington Post column in 2014, Nifong maintained that neither Nishonda nor Doris Washington had been raped prior to their murders, despite evidence indicating otherwise.
“Years later, Nifong would attempt to prosecute innocent men for a rape that never happened,” Radley Balko of the Washington Post wrote. “Here, he prosecuted a likely innocent man by pretending two rapes never happened.”
In 2007, Nifong was disbarred following the 2006 Duke lacrosse case in which Durham stripper Crystal Mangum falsely accused three Duke lacrosse players of rape. Nifong was found in contempt of court and sentenced to one day in jail.
John Burness, visiting professor of the practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy, was the senior vice president for public affairs and government relations during the Duke lacrosse case. Burness said that he thinks the court will look at this case independently of Nifong's past, but noted that Nifong's public perception was permanently affected by the scandal.
"To the general public, Mr. Nifong was seen as someone who really committed prosecutorial misconduct. It's a very logical jump that if he did once, he could do it again," Burness said.
Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, declined to comment on the situation.
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