A Lowndes County man on death row may go before a trial court that will look at new evidence and determine whether or not the evidence will produce a different result or lead to a different sentence.
The Mississippi Innocence Project asked the Supreme Court of Mississippi to reexamine the case of convicted killer Eddie Lee Howard, who in 1992 was found guilty of the rape and murder of Columbus woman Georgia Kemp. On Aug. 4, the Supreme Court ruled Howard may file a petition for post-conviction relief in the trial court. The trial court will hold an evidentiary hearing on whether or not newly discovered evidence in Howard’s case could lead to a different result or sentencing.
Howard, now 61, was tried twice in Lowndes County for the 1992 rape and stabbing death of 82-year-old Georgia Kemp of Columbus. Evidence against him included bite marks on the woman’s body. Dr. Michael West, a forensic odontologist, testified the bite marks matched impressions of Howard’s teeth.
The Mississippi Supreme Court threw out his 1994 capital murder conviction and death sentence, ruling the prosecutor’s reliance on the bite marks was unsound. The court upheld the conviction and death sentence from his second trial, in 2000. Between those trials, the court ruled that bite-mark evidence can be used in Mississippi.
The bite-mark analysis was the only physical evidence presented in Howard’s trial linking him to Kemp’s murder.
Bite-mark evidence is no longer recognized as scientific in many legal circles according to attorneys from the Mississippi Innocence Project, and at least two dozen people convicted of rape and murder as a result of bite-mark analysis have been exonerated in the last 15 years.
This story includes reporting by The Associated Press.