On August 5th, 2008, Aaron Michael Howard was released from prison after serving almost twenty years for a crime he did not commit.
In 1990, Howard and three co-defendants were convicted of the 1988 murder of Bobby Parker in South East, DC. There was only strong evidence against Howard’s co-defendants, and yet all four men were sentenced to 21 years to life.
In 2002, Howard reopened his case for investigation under the DC Innocence Protection Act. Six years later, Howard’s legal team filed an amended motion to exonerate him. The team had declarations from eyewitnesses and all three of his co-defendants stating that Howard did not take part in the crime. His co-defendant’s declarations also established the involvement of another individual whom the government had failed to investigate fully.
The new statements were corroborated by a vast amount of evidence, including forensic evidence and testimony introduced at trial, eyewitness accounts the government possessed but did not present at trial, and other documentary evidence that had emerged in the years since Howard’s conviction. The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Anthony Quinn, withdrew from the case, stating that he could no longer defend the jury’s guilty verdict.
In July of 2008, prosecutors offered Howard a deal. If he agreed to a voluntary manslaughter conviction, then his other convictions and sentences would be vacated, and he would be released. Facing the prospect of a second wrongful conviction, and having already spent two decades in prison, Howard agreed to the deal.
On August 5, 2008, Howard left prison. Howard now lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Gabrielle. “The agreement… is not perfect,” Howard said in a written statement. “It is not perfect because, although it allows me to maintain my innocence, it requires me to accept a conviction for a crime I did not commit.” Because of his plea, he is not considered officially “exonerated” and has received no compensation for wrongful conviction.
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