18 April 2022
Darryl Howard remembers when he was arrested then convicted in 1995. He remembers days that turned into months and years in a prison cell. Those were the lows of the emotional rollercoaster he’s been on for the last two and a half decades.
“I missed my mom,” Howard said, talking about his time in prison from his Durham apartment. “My son died when I was in prison. I missed my family. I missed living, you know – living a free life.”
Howard fought every day for the 24 years he was in jail, trying to prove his innocence.
In 2016, after DNA evidence proved he was not the perpetrator in the double murder of a mom and her daughter, he was exonerated then later pardoned.
“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words. I’m frustrated, angry, all of these emotions. If you didn’t do nothing wrong, you shouldn’t be imprisoned.”
While his hard work proving his innocence paid off, it has yet to pay out.
This past December, a jury awarded Howard $6 million in damages due to his wrongful conviction. He has yet to see a single cent.
“Everybody thinks they just give [the money] to you,” Howard said. “And everybody [else does] get it. But for some reason, they just want to refuse me and I don’t understand that.”
Howard’s lawyer, Nick Brustin, says they were notified from the Durham City Attorney, Kim Rehberg that the City Council decided not to pay the judgment, as first reported by the News and Observer.
These discussions all happened during closed session meetings over the winter, Brustin said.
Rehberg hasn’t responded to our inquiries as of publication.
Brustin called it unprecedented.
“They fought for years and spent countless hours and tons of the city’s money to defend [detective Darrell] Dowdy and his conduct,” said Brustin of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, the law office representing Howard.
Both Howard and Brustin say the city has fought them every step of the way.
“Durham, a supposedly a progressive city with the progressive city government says ‘we’re not going to pay for this. Sorry, Darryl Howard, and everything that happened to you. But because this this conduct was too serious, we’re not going to pay it,'” Brustin explained. “It is literally unheard of. It’s shocking. It’s an abomination.”
Brustin says they won’t stop fighting. As for now, Howard is trying to remain hopeful. But he thinks about how much that money would help him start over – somewhere new he says, away from Durham. He wants to use it to get on his feet and support his family including his 2-year-old son.
However, Howard can’t help but wonder why he must continue to fight when he has proven his innocence.
“You have no reason to do this to me,” Howard said, through tears. “I don’t know what it is. I’ve tried to wrap my head around why they’re doing it but I can’t seem to figure it out.”