Monday, November 14, 2011

Eddie Lee Howard: A Case for Your Consideration

Eddie Lee Howard sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Mississippi. As far as I know, he does not yet have a execution date.

I write of Mr. Howard as a real world exercise. In working with wrongful convictions from a broad perspective, it is important to be able to quickly filter those who are certainly guilty from those who have some chance of being factually innocent. In this post, I am going to present the summary of Mr. Howard's case from his appeal in Eddie Lee Howard, Jr. v. State of Mississippi.

I'm then going to open the comments to your observations on the case, with a twist to be described near the end of this post. Without further ado, I present the case summary of Eddie Lee Howard as presented by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Eddie Lee Howard, Jr., appeals his conviction of capital murder and death sentence for the 1992 rape and murder of Georgia Kemp.
On the evening of February 2, 1992, 14-year-old Paris Lowery noticed smoke emerging from the home of her neighbor, 84-year-old Georgia Kemp. Lowery informed her mother of the smoke, and the Columbus, Mississippi, Fire Department was summoned. The firefighters found a small smoldering fire in the living room which had burned two holes in the floor. Stanley Clark, battalion chief with the Columbus Fire Department, found Kemp on the floor of her bedroom but was surprised because the fire did not generate enough smoke to cause death by smoke inhalation. Another firefighter, Tony Clark, checked for vital signs and concluded that Kemp was dead. Stanley noticed that Kemp's legs were bloodied up a bit and that she was partially exposed. He also found a bloody knife on the bed and a telephone with its line cut. At that point, Stanley and Tony exited the house so as not to disturb the scene.

An investigation ensued which found that Kemp was lying on her left side, exposed from the waist down, and wearing nylon stockings. Her nightgown had been pulled up and ripped open in the front. Kemp had been stabbed twice in the left side of her chest, and blood was found on the sheets of the bed from the headboard to the footboard. There was no evidence of forced entry or anything stolen from the house.

Dr. Steven Hayne performed an autopsy on Kemp's body on February 3, 1992. He found that Kemp had bruises and scrapes about the face, head and neck, multiple bruises to the left shin, and bite marks on the right breast, right side of the neck, and right forearm. Also found were injuries to both sides of the vaginal vault, which, according to Dr. Hayne, were consistent with forced sexual intercourse. However, no semen was found, but Dr. Hayne testified that did not mean that intercourse had not taken place. In addition, Kemp suffered injuries consistent with manual strangulation, but the cause of death was the two stab wounds to the left side of the chest which caused severe internal bleeding.

Eddie Lee Howard, Jr., consented to have dental impressions taken which were made by Dr. David Curtis on February 6, 1992. Dr. Curtis noted that Howard had a removable partial denture replacing the upper four front teeth.

After Kemp's body was exhumed, Dr. Michael West, a forensic odontologist, examined the dental impressions and the bite marks on Kemp on February 7, 1992. He found that Howard's upper teeth were consistent with the mark on Kemp's arm and that both Howard's upper and lower teeth were consistent with the marks on Kemp's neck and breast.

On the morning of February 3, 1992, one day after the murder, Howard paid a visit to Kayfen Fulgham, his former girlfriend and the mother of his adult child. Fulgham noted that Howard smelled of smoke, not cigarette smoke, but "like burnt clothes or something, you know, wood, like smoke."

Howard was arrested on February 8, 1992, and, at the time, was living with his mother a couple of blocks away from Kemp. On February 13, 1992, Detective David Turner was given a note from Howard stating, "Dear Mr. Turner, I need to see you as soon as possible. It's in relation to my case." Howard was taken to Turner's office and requested that Turner drive him by the crime scene to see if it would bring back some memories. Howard also told Turner the case was solved.

After Turner gave Howard an advice of rights form, Turner and Commander Donald Freshour drove Howard by Kemp's house, but Howard indicated it did not bring back any memories to him. Turner and Freshour then drove Howard past his mother's house two blocks away where he had been living and his aunt's house three blocks away. The three men then passed by Kemp's house again and returned to the Columbus Police Department. Howard was placed in Turner's office whereupon Turner testified the following transpired:
Again he told me that the case was solved and he told me that there was— uh—five or six other individuals involved and to keep investigating the case, that I would [ ] find out [ ] their roles [ ] in this case. Uh—and he asked me if I thought he was [ ] crazy. I looked at him and I said, ["]no, man—you know, I don't think you're crazy["] and he said ["]well I'm not. I'm not crazy["] and he said ["]I had a temper and that's why this happened.["] And when he said that, I mean shock just went across my body and I felt like at that point this was the guy that had actually committed the murder
We find no reversible error. Thus, we affirm the judgment entered by the Lowndes County Circuit Court in accordance with the verdict of guilty.
Here's the twist. I challenge you to limit any research to 15 minutes before you post your comment describing why Eddie Lee Howard is clearly guilty or why this case deserves further consideration.


Andrew Hickey said...

Seems like the only forensic evidence is the toothmarks, and the dentist who said that Howard's teeth matched has had to resign from forensics organisations for giving false evidence. Seems like at the very least that evidence should be re-evaluated.

ithinkthere4iam said...

This case deserves further consideration as Howard's upper teeth were a mass-manufactured denture and the bite marks were the only evidence linking him to the crime scence.

Anonymous said...


In less than 10 minutes -

The defendant defends himself, its likely he is mentally ill and suffers from paranoia, jurors include a police officer's wife, a rape victim, and the father inlaw of an an officer who investigated the crime.

And then there is Dr. Michael West who presented the only evidence linking him to the crime scene, the bite marks -

From the innocence project website, a Fox News article about Dr. West -

In a Fox News article yesterday, Radley Balko writes about West’s questionable past and the unreliable nature of bitemark evidence.

" Even in an already imprecise field, Dr. West has taken forensic odontology to bizarre, megalomaniacal depths. West claims to have invented a system he modestly calls "The West Phenomenon," in which he dons a pair of yellow goggles and, with the aid of a blue laser, says he can identify bite marks, scratches, and other marks on a corpse that no one else can see — not even other forensics experts.

Conveniently, he claims his unique method can't be photographed or reproduced, which he says makes his opinions unimpeachable by other experts."

Absolute insanity.


Anonymous said...

Deserves further consideration.

Others have already mentioned the credibility issues with Michael West and Steven Hayne. It's worth noting that Georgia's body had to be EXHUMED so that the bite marks could be examined. So clearly no one saw them the first time around...

Based on the summary here, we have no credible physical evidence, no significant witnesses, no admission of guilt, and no motive (claiming that "they've solved the crime" is NOT a confession, I don't think).

I did stumble across some references to an order for DNA testing from 2010. I didn't have much luck following up on that and ended up running out of time. So that seems like a good starting place for further investigation. (I also found references to a prior conviction: I'd be interested to see if there were any similarities between this crime and that one.)

The Airborne Juror said...

good article at

"Howard's upper teeth were a mass-manufactured denture"

"West's bite mark testimony is the only physical evidence linking Howard to the crime scene"

"West, who once claimed he could trace the tooth marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich at a crime scene to a defendant while excluding everyone else on the planet, has had to resign from two professional forensics organizations due to his habit of giving testimony unsupported by science. In 2001 (as I reported last year) a defense lawyer caught West in a sting aimed at revealing him as a charlatan: West matched the dental mold of a private investigator to unrelated photos of bite marks from a crime committed eight years earlier. West even sent back a video in which he methodically went through his technique."

and an article here about West:

Given that this appears to be the sole evidence, apart from a "smell of wood" and a series of muddled statements, there is certainly enough grounds to warrant a further investigation.

Greetings from Basel

David Turner said...

Don't get worked up on this article. The information published is inaccurate. I should know, I was the lead investigator. Get the facts correct before you publish an article like this. The fire department had nothing to do with the findings of this crime scene. -David Turner

tsj said...

David Turner,

Perhaps you could enlighten us as to the evidence compelling of Eddie Lee Howard's guilt.

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