Homicide

Judge: 1995 double-murder conviction tossed, freedom to come

  • Darryl Howard listens as one of his attorneys speaks during a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Jermeck Jones, an ex-convict linked to a slain woman through DNA testing, is refusing to answer questions at a hearing that could free Howard, who was sentenced to prison 21 years ago for the killing. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Herald-Sun via AP)

    Darryl Howard listens as one of his attorneys speaks during a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Jermeck Jones, an ex-convict linked to a slain woman through DNA testing, is refusing to answer questions at a hearing that could free Howard, who was sentenced to prison 21 years ago for the killing. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Herald-Sun via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Barry Scheck, an attorney for Darryl Howard, speaks at a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Jermeck Jones, an ex-convict linked to a slain woman through DNA testing, is refusing to answer questions at a hearing that could free Howard, who was sentenced to prison 21 years ago for the killing. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Herald-Sun via AP)

    Barry Scheck, an attorney for Darryl Howard, speaks at a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Jermeck Jones, an ex-convict linked to a slain woman through DNA testing, is refusing to answer questions at a hearing that could free Howard, who was sentenced to prison 21 years ago for the killing. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Herald-Sun via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Attorneys Seema Saifee and Barry Scheck confer as Darryl Howard looks on during a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Jermeck Jones, an ex-convict linked to a slain woman through DNA testing, is refusing to answer questions at a hearing that could free Howard, who was sentenced to prison 21 years ago for the killing. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Herald-Sun via AP)

    Attorneys Seema Saifee and Barry Scheck confer as Darryl Howard looks on during a hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, at the Durham County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Jermeck Jones, an ex-convict linked to a slain woman through DNA testing, is refusing to answer questions at a hearing that could free Howard, who was sentenced to prison 21 years ago for the killing. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Herald-Sun via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A North Carolina judge has thrown out the double-murder conviction of a man who has spent 21 years in prison and favors his immediate release from prison.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said Wednesday that DNA evidence unavailable at the time of Darryl Howard's 1995 murder trial would have created a reasonable doubt for jurors who convicted him.

The judge said he planned to order Howard's immediate release, but prosecutors said they would appeal to block that.

The same judge was prepared to order Howard's release two years ago, but prosecutors appealed and a state appeals court ruled Hudson failed to hear enough evidence before making a decision.

Ex-district attorney Mike Nifong, who was disbarred and jailed for his handling of the Duke University lacrosse case, was to be questioned about his handling of Howard's case on Wednesday afternoon.