The Duke lacrosse case revealed many things but among the most disturbing was the realization of just how corrupt justice in Durham had become.
As you’ll remember, District Attorney Mike Nifong, the Durham police and a DNA lab had all conspired to frame three Duke lacrosse players. We remember wondering at the time how many other people had been falsely accused and convicted?
You can put Darryl Howard in that number.
Howard was convicted in 1991 of murdering a mother and her daughter and wasn’t cleared until 2016 when DNA evidence led to his exoneration.
Durham police detective Darryl Dowdy was accused of making up evidence and - surprise - Nifong did not disclose exulpatory evidence to the defense.
Howard got $6 million but he says that’s not enough to make up for 23 years spent in prison and who can argue? How can anything make that right?
In many ways, the Duke Lacrosse hoax presaged many of the divisions that later became so stark. And we really don't care what side you might prefer. Live your own life.
But we hope that we can all agree on this: no one, under any circumstance, should go to prison for a crime or crimes they did not commit.
Instead of shirking jury duty or trying to get out of it, we should all accept it as a great privilege and do our absolute best to be fair and even handed.
It’s impossible to stop every prosecutor and rogue cop that comes along, but we the people are the backstop. We can’t stop people from being corrupt but we can help prevent tragedies like what happened to Howard. We can keep future Nifongs from destroying more lives.