Man, 67, declared innocent and murder conviction overturned after 26 years on death row

Eddie Lee Howard, 67, has been exonerated for the 1992 murder of Georgia Kemp (Image: Innocence Project)

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A man who spent 26 years on death row after being wrongfully convicted of murder has finally been declared innocent.

Eddie Lee Howard, 67 – who was photographed with his hands in the air as he left Mississippi Department of Corrections last month – was officially exonerated on Monday.

He had been sentenced to death multiple times for the 1992 murder of Georgia Kemp, 84, using what has since been deemed an outdated bite-mark comparison technique.

New DNA evidence and alibi testimony was also used to prove Mr Howard's innocence, according to the Clarion Ledger.

An outdated bite mark comparison technique was used to convict him in 1994 and 2000
(Image: Mississippi Dept. of Corrections)

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In a statement released by the Innocence Project, Mr Howard said: "I want to say many thanks to the many people who are responsible for helping to make my dream of freedom a reality."

The organisation, which represented the former inmate, said the U-turn marks the 28th exoneration in the US based on bite mark comparison.

It is currently working on proving the innocence of two other death penalty convictions.

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Mr Howard added: "I thank you with all my heart, because without your hard work on my behalf, I would still be confined in that terrible place called the Mississippi Department of Corrections, on death row, waiting to be executed."

District Attorney Scott Colom has confirmed prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Mr Howard because there was not enough evidence to convict him "beyond a reasonable doubt",  CBS News reported.

Mr Howard had represented himself at his original trial in 1994 where he was first sentenced to death.

But that conviction was overturned in 1997 when the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled a bite comparison in relation to a mark on the victim's breast with a dental impression from the defendant was deemed "inadmissible".

However, Mr Howard was convicted again in 2000 before that ruling was overturned in August last year, with the Supreme Court again arguing he "cannot be reliably identified" using the technique.

A new trial was ordered before the defendant was finally exonerated.

Innocence Project attorney M. Chris Fabricant praised the court for "rejecting junk science".

"We are thankful that the Court has identified this breakdown in Mr. Howard's case, ruling that debunked science has no place in our justice system," he said.

Mr Howard had been detained by police on February 6, 1992, four days after Kemp's body was found on her bedroom floor, while a small fire burned in the living room.

A post mortem found the victim had been raped, strangled and stabbed twice, while there were also bite marks on her breast.

Mr Howard's girlfriend at the time, who lived nearby, had testified he had turned up at her home smelling of smoke and that he liked to bite her during sex.

A dental imprint was then taken and Mr Howard was charged, according to court documents.

Dr Michael West, a forensic odontologist, who examined Ms Kemp's body on February 7, 1992 and determined that there were human bite marks which were "consistent with" Mr Howard's teeth.

"I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis, Dr West later said in a 2012 deposition. "I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out."

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