Contact: Teri Stoddard
Wrongful Conviction and Prosecutor Misconduct at Issue in Upcoming Hearing for Arkansas Death Row Man
WASHINGTON / October 23, 2013 – The Center for Prosecutor Integrity, a national criminal justice reform organization, is announcing plans to monitor the October 28 Circuit Court hearing for death-row inmate Timothy Howard. Despite repeated claims of innocence, Howard was convicted in 1999 for the murders of Brian and Shannon Day.
In 2004, Howard petitioned the court to order release of the complete DNA report by the Virginia-based DNA laboratory, Bode Technology Group. The request was not approved until three years later. At that time, serious quality control problems with the DNA analysis came to light.
The lab technician had made notes that revealed serious problems in the testing procedure: “cap had flipped open while spinning,” the “gel did not run properly,” and data was “inadvertently erased.” Re-testing disclosed the glitches were “most likely a result of random, spurious contaminant.” The technician’s handwritten notes can be seen here: http://timhoward.proclaimjustice.org/documents/DNA%20Lab%20Notes%20Withheld%20From%20the%20Defense.pdf
Prosecutor Tom Cooper did not disclose this information to the defense during the course of the 1999 trial, even though state ethics rules require the prosecution to release any evidence that might support a defendant’s claim of innocence.
In 2012, the Arkansas Supreme Court reviewed the hidden lab notes and ruled the claim of evidence concealment “appears to have merit.” The case was then remanded to the Circuit Court.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity also notes a concern about judicial impartiality. The October 28 hearing will be held before David Yeargan, the same judge who officiated at Howard’s original trial.
“CPI’s interest in this case arises from the prosecutor’s failure to disclose potentially innocence-proving information,” notes CPI spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “This represents a shameful ethical violation that warrants strong sanctions.”
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity anticipates the Circuit Court will order a new trial for Timothy Howard.
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is working to preserve the presumption of innocence, assure equal treatment under the law, and curb wrongful convictions: www.prosecutorintegrity.org