Durham, NC – In December of last year, a federal jury awarded 58-year-old Darryl Howard a $6 million dollar judgment for a civil rights violation by a Durham police detective that led to him spending 23-years in prison. Now the Durham City Council has decided it wont pay.
In 1995, Howard was convicted of killing 29-year-old Doris Washington, and her 13-year-old daughter and setting their apartment on fire. He was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder and arson and sentenced to 80-years in prison — two consecutive 40-year terms for the two murders and one 40-year term for the arson.
DNA testing later showed that sperm found in one of the bodies belonged to a convicted felon who had a history of drug dealing and violence against women.
Howard’s conviction was vacated in August 2016, after a judge acknowledged the presence of misconduct among authorities. He was granted a pardon of innocence by Governor Roy in April.
In 2017, he filed a federal civil rights suit arguing that retired Durham police detective Darell Dowdy, the city, and others led to his wrongful conviction.
On December 1 a jury found that Dowdy fabricated evidence and performed an inadequate investigation that led to Howard being wrongfully convicted and awarded him $6 million in damages.
In a move that Howard’s and Dowdy’s attorneys described as unprecedented, the Durham City Council decided in a series of closed session meetings not to pay the judgment on Dowdy’s behalf, saying they will not indemnify Dowdy.
Although the city has spent more than $4 million on litigation against Howard, the reasoning say they will not pay out his $6 million settlement seems to be that the city will only pay out if its cops and other employees were acting in good faith when the violation was committed, not maliciously. Since Dowdy was found to be acting in bad faith, the city won’t pay the settlement.
The judgment marks the first time a jury has found “a bad faith finding,” against a Durham employee, City Attorney Kimberly Rehberg said.
The city’s resolution states that it’s in the public interest to settle judgments against the city “if the facts and circumstances of the claim or the suit in which the judgment is entered show that the officer or employee was engaged in the good faith performance of his duties on behalf of the City when the act or omission giving rise to the claim or suit occurred,” Rehberg wrote in an email, in which she added an emphasis on good faith. “A jury of Mr. Dowdy’s peers determined that Mr. Dowdy engaged in fabrication of evidence and a bad faith failure to investigate,” she wrote.
In addition to not paying Howard the $6 million he was awarded, the city has also indicated in legal filings that it will ask Howard to pay the legal fees of two city employees who were dismissed from the lawsuit.
Howard said Durham officers have fought him each step of the way.
“I proved my innocence. I went through every court,” he stated. “Every judge says what this was, even the governor.”
“I don’t understand that,” he stated. “Now I have to fight again.”