Inmate challenge to death sentence goes back to trial court

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A state death row inmate is going back to a north Mississippi courtroom to again fight for a new trial.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered a Lowndes County judge to determine if the results of post-conviction DNA testing raise enough questions to justify a new trial for Eddie Lee Howard Jr. Howard, now 61, who was convicted and sentenced to death in the slaying of 84-year-old Georgia Kemp of Columbus. Evidence against him included bite marks on her body.

The Supreme Court, in the order signed Thursday by Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., makes no specific mention of Howard's challenge to the bite mark evidence that the inmate argues is now widely discredited in legal circles.

Waller's order directs the trial court to hold a hearing to determine if Howard's arguments of newly discovered evidence including the results of DNA testing could "probably produce a different result or induce a different verdict if a new trial is granted."

The court's order does not disclose what the DNA testing revealed. Howard's attorneys argue in briefs that DNA results do not connect Howard to the crime.

Howard was convicted of raping and fatally stabbing Kemp in 1992. He was sentenced to death.

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