Mississippi man exonerated after 1994 death sentence

Sunil Kumar

JACKSON, Miss. – A Black Mississippi man convicted of killing a white woman and sentenced to death in 1994 has been exonerated after the evidence used to convict him was debunked.

Lowndes County District Attorney Scott Colom decided not to retry the case of 67-year-old Eddie Lee Howard Friday, months after the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned his conviction and vacated his sentence in late August. He was released from the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman in early December.

New DNA evidence and alibi testimony, as well as a new forensic opinion about the bite marks found on the woman killed, helped prove Howard’s innocence.

In this May 19, 2010 photograph, traffic moves past the front of the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss.

Howard was accused of sexually assaulting and murdering 84-year-old Georgie Kemp at her Columbus, Mississippi, home in 1992 before setting it on fire. During his 1994 trial, prosecutors relied heavily on bite-mark evidence found on Kemp’s body to convict Howard. But that evidence was dismissed nearly 20 years later by the same expert who testified on its credibility during Howard’s trial.

“I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis,” forensic odontologist Michael West of Hattiesburg said in a 2012 deposition. “I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out.”

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