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Black man is exonerated after spending spent 26 years on death row after being wrongfully convicted of killing a white woman in Mississippi based on outdated bite-mark comparison

 A 67-year-old black man who spent 26 years on death row after being wrongfully convicted of killing an elderly white woman in Columbus, Mississippi based on an outdated bite-mark comparison technique, has had his murder conviction vacated.

Eddie Lee Howard had been convicted multiple times for the 1992 killing of 84-year-old Georgia Kemp and was first sentenced to death in 1994 when he represented himself at trial.

Howard's conviction was overturned in 1997 when the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that a comparison of a bite mark on Kemp's right breast with a dental impression taken from Howard was "unreliable and inadmissible." He was convicted again in 2000.

The Mississippi Supreme Court vacated that conviction and death sentence for the former prisoner in August, ruling that an 'individual perpetrator cannot be reliably identified through bite mark comparison' and ordering a new trial.

Eddie Lee Howard spent 26 years on death row before he was exonerated for a 1992 murder

Eddie Lee Howard spent 26 years on death row before he was exonerated for a 1992 murder

In December, Howard was released from the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections on his personal recognizance, according to a report in the Clarion Ledger.

Howard was finally exonerated on Monday when District Attorney Scott Colom confirmed prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Howard because there was not enough evidence to convict him 'beyond a reasonable doubt,' CBS News reported


'My ethical and legal responsibility requires that I dismiss the case,' he said.

Howard has since walked free and was photographed happily throwing his hands in the air while leaving prison.

'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, according to the Innocence Project – which represented him. 

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled his conviction be overturned and ordered a new trial

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled his conviction be overturned and ordered a new trial

'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.'

M. Chris Fabricant, one of Mr. Howard's Innocence Project attorneys, lauded the Mississippi Supreme Court for taking 'a powerful stance in rejecting junk science.'

'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,' Fabricant said.

According to a press release from the organization, 'Howard's case marks the 28th exoneration in the United States based on bite mark comparison.'

The organization said it is currently working on proving the innocence of two additional death penalty convictions.

Daily Mail has reached out to the Innocence Project for additional information.

New DNA evidence and alibi testimony was also used to prove Howard's innocence, according to the Clarion Ledger. 

The saga began on February 2, 1992 when one of Kemp's neighbors noticed smoke coming from her home, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

Firefighters who responded found a small fire in Kemp's living room and her bloody, partially exposed body on her bedroom floor. First responders also found a bloody knife and noticed that the telephone line had been cut.

Dr. Steven Hayne, who performed the autopsy the next day, found injuries consistent with forced vaginal intercourse and strangulation, as well as the two stab wounds on her left side that killed her.

Several days later, Hayne ordered Kemp's body be exhumed for an additional study and dental impressions were taken from Howard.

Howard, who lived with his mother just a couple blocks away from Kemp, visited Kayfen Fulgham -- his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, court documents show. 

Fulgham later testified that Howard smelled of smoke, not cigarette smoke, but "like burnt clothes or something, you know, wood, like smoke" and claimed Howard liked to bite her on her neck and breasts during intercourse.

Columbus police detained Howard as a suspect on February 6, 1992 and took him to a dentist's office, "where he was forced to allow impressions to be made of his mouth," court documents show.

Dr. Michael West, a forensic odontologist, examined Kemp's body on February 7, 1992 and determined that there were human bite marks which were 'consistent with' Howard's teeth.

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