Superior Court Judge Doug Parsons freed a man, Howard Dudley, 59, who had spent 23 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting his 9-year-old daughter in 1992. It is a crime that the daughter, Amy Moore, 33, now says did not happen.
As the Raleigh News and Observer reports, Judge Parsons on Wednesday said he had no confidence in the 1992 trial where Dudley had been convicted. Parsons said that Amy Moore, Dudley’s daughter, gave contradictory and questionable accounts of the alleged assault and on Tuesday, recanted her testimony that “she was raped but not by her father.”
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Dudley said he rejected a plea agreement that would have freed him in 1992 because he was innocent and wanted to clear his name. “I am not a child molester. I have never been one, and I will never be one,” Dudley said.
Howard Dudley threw his Greene Correctional Institution prison uniform of 23 years on the floor and stomped over them. Outside the Lenoir County jail, Wednesday he was met by family, friends, and cameras. He smiled broadly, thanking God, his family and lawyers who stood by him.
“The only thing I had to fight with was the truth. I didn’t commit any of these acts. I need healing and so does Amy.”
Dudley’s knees buckled as he remembered his wife and mother who had passed on as he languished in prison.
Dudley’s daughter Amy Moore testified at her father’s trial that she was sexually abused by him. This was the only evidence used against him when he was sentenced to life. Moore later admitted in court after battling her guilt for over two decades that her rape story was a lie.
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Mental health experts have stated under oath that Moore suffers from a slew of mental issues: mental retardation, anxiety disorders, depression, and experienced psychotic episodes. Witnesses said she was manipulated in the statements that she made to social workers and police even though they were unreliable and inconsistent. Even though she tried to explain herself, the assistant district attorney was bent on upholding a conviction.
Jamie Lau, who represented Dudley, said the attorney at his 1992 trial, Nicholas Harvey, did not have access to records from the Department of Social Services and his daughter’s babysitter. The babysitter had observed the 9-year-old closely and concluded that she was not telling the truth. She had reportedly told social workers before the trial, but nothing was done.
Social service records also showed the implausibility of Moore’s allegations. She said she was raped while wearing her pajamas and panties and was left bleeding. She then said there was no blood and instead was a victim of a knife attack that neighbor quickly intervened.
Harvey testified that Dudley’s trial was his first felony case. He had only recently started to practice full-time law. He did not receive any files from social services or Moore’s guardian to bolster his defense. This would have been crucial in revealing the inconsistencies of Moore’s testimony.
Lau called an expert witness, Jeffrey Miller, who had widespread experience in child abuse cases. He pointed out that Harvey did a terrible job in 1992, filing no motions for evidence and not requesting an expert witness to determine if Moore was psychologically competent to testify. He also said Harvey spent a measly 12 hours just preparing for Dudley’s trial. “That falls short of competent reasonable practice in Eastern North Carolina for anyone charged with a life sentence,” Miller concluded.
Assistant District Attorney John Newby requested for the original guilty verdict to be respected. “This came down to credibility. In April 1992, 12 jurors were selected. They listened to all the evidence, deliberated and found the defendant guilty. They were in a better position than this court to decide this case.”
But in throwing out Dudley’s conviction, Judge Parsons focused on three flaws during the trial. Firstly, he said Dudley never received copies from social services and the court about the improbable versions of the alleged assault.
Secondly, he said he was convinced that Moore’s version of events was totally false. Thirdly, he said Harvey, Dudley’s trial lawyer, had woefully failed his client, preparing poorly for a trial that potentially carried two life sentences. “I found this to be an egregious, possibly outrageous violation. This cries out as an injustice to Mr. Dudley. We basically went into trial naked. The result is not surprising to me,” Parsons said.
Dudley was the final witness at his evidentiary hearing. “I love my daughter Amy, I hope that soon I will be able to hug her neck and tell her I love her and forgive her,” he said. After being declared a free man, Dudley’s first stop was Bojangles for fried chicken covered with Texas Pete.
[Image via Shutterstock/Dabarti CGI]