Eddie Lee Howard is a free man after being wrongfully convicted of the murder and rape of an 84-year-old white woman, Georgia Kemp, and spending more than two decades on death row.
Howard, who is Black, was sentenced to death in 1994 after being tied to the crime by a doctor who claimed the bite marks on the victim’s body were made by Howard’s teeth, CNN reported. In August, a Mississippi Supreme Court found that the accusation wasn’t enough to tie him to the murder.
"After reviewing the record, we conclude that Howard's evidence as to the change in the scientific understanding of the reliability of identification through bite-mark comparisons was almost uncontested. Based on this record, we agree with Howard that a forensic dentist would not be permitted to identify Howard as the biter today as Dr. West did at Howard's trial in 2000," the court wrote in August.
Alibi testimony and new DNA evidence also helped overturn Howard's conviction, according to USA Today. Howard, who is now 67, had been accused of raping and murdering Kemp at her Columbus home in 1992 before setting the home ablaze.
The Mississippi Innocence Project helped Howard with his case and he and his attorneys thanked the organization for helping to overturn Howard’s conviction in a statement.
“The Mississippi Supreme Court has taken a powerful stance in rejecting junk science as the basis on which to put a man to death,” M. Chris Fabricant, one of Howard's attorneys, told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger “We are thankful that the Court has identified this breakdown in Mr. Howard’s case, ruling that debunked science has no place in our justice system.”
The ruling may help two other people on death row in Mississippi after being convicted in part due to bite-mark evidence, Howard’s attorney’s said, USA Today reported.
"I want to say many thanks to the many people who are responsible for helping to make my dream of freedom a reality," Howard said in a statement. "I thank you with all my heart, because without your hard work on my behalf, I would still be confined in that terrible place called the Mississippi Department of Corrections, on death row, waiting to be executed."