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.