Sex Crimes

AP Exclusive: Review of convictions in North Carolina

  • Darryl Howard, gets a hug from his wife Nannie as prepare to leave the Durham County Detention Center, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Durham, N.C., after a judge threw out Howard's conviction in a double-murder case tried 21 years ago and ordered Howard's release because of DNA evidence unavailable at his 1995 murder trial. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)

    Darryl Howard, gets a hug from his wife Nannie as prepare to leave the Durham County Detention Center, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Durham, N.C., after a judge threw out Howard's conviction in a double-murder case tried 21 years ago and ordered Howard's release because of DNA evidence unavailable at his 1995 murder trial. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Darryl Howard with his wife Nannie, right, leave the Durham County Detention Center victorious with their lawyers and family after a judge threw out Howard's conviction in a double-murder case tried 21 years ago and ordered Howard's release because of DNA evidence unavailable at his 1995 murder trial, in Durham, N.C. Wednesday , Aug. 31, 2016. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)

    Darryl Howard with his wife Nannie, right, leave the Durham County Detention Center victorious with their lawyers and family after a judge threw out Howard's conviction in a double-murder case tried 21 years ago and ordered Howard's release because of DNA evidence unavailable at his 1995 murder trial, in Durham, N.C. Wednesday , Aug. 31, 2016. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Darryl Howard, left, wipes away tears after Judge Orlando Hudson threw out Howard's double-murder conviction Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in a Durham County Courthouse courtroom, in Durham, N.C.  The judge threw out the convictions and ordered Howard’s release because of DNA evidence unavailable at Howard’s 1995 murder trial. His lawyer, Barry Scheck, co-director of the N.Y. based Innocence Project, is at right. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)

    Darryl Howard, left, wipes away tears after Judge Orlando Hudson threw out Howard's double-murder conviction Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in a Durham County Courthouse courtroom, in Durham, N.C. The judge threw out the convictions and ordered Howard’s release because of DNA evidence unavailable at Howard’s 1995 murder trial. His lawyer, Barry Scheck, co-director of the N.Y. based Innocence Project, is at right. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Advocates are sifting through 20 old criminal cases for hints of wrongful convictions in a North Carolina community where a prosecutor once tried to railroad three Duke lacrosse players for rape and where a longtime prisoner was freed after a judge ruled DNA evidence cleared him of rape and murder.

Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols said Thursday he'll cooperate with investigating any innocence claims or questionable prosecutions pointed out by the nonprofit North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence.

Echols and the center's executive director Chris Mumma agreed two years ago that they should investigate whether more cases of possible prosecutorial conduct remained unearthed. The innocence center has been quietly culling down the hundreds of Durham cases that put people behind bars who remain there.