SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You’ve no doubt heard the old cliché that “everyone in prison is innocent,” or at least they claim to be.

Judee Howard says she has no doubt that her husband of 25 years didn’t commit the 1981 crime for which he was convicted of first-degree murder.

She even wrote a book about his case called, You Can’t Try a Dead Man: The Untold Story of Injustice.

KELOLAND investigates is taking a new look at Jeffrey Lynn Howard’s murder conviction and spoke with his wife about her crusade to set him free and the victim’s family who says nothing can convince them Howard isn’t guilty.

Jeff and Judee Howard

Judee Howard first met her husband in 1993 when she was working with a group that ran programs in prisons.

“He told me a little bit about his case, that he was in for murder, but he didn’t do it and I’m polite so I didn’t roll my eyes,” Howard said.

Judee, herself a devout Christian, learned Jeff had been born again and decided to learn more about his case in order to get him to repent for his sins.

In March of 1981, Duane McCormick was discovered dead in his bed. The murder weapon? A hammer. His roommate, Jeff Howard, was captured in Georgia with McCormick’s backpack. He was put on trial and convicted of first-degree murder. Howard has always claimed he is innocent.

Judee says as she started to dive into Howard’s case, she came to believe the same thing. But police believed it was Howard from the start.

“It’s like they figured it was him and they didn’t do fingerprinting. Why would you for the guy who lived there? They didn’t collect evidence. There were so many things they didn’t do. That surprised me and I just couldn’t figure out why they let it all go so quickly,” Judee Howard said.

Pete Farley/Submitted photo

Since the time of McCormick’s murder, six people have come forward saying another man admitted to them he killed McCormick. That man is Darrell Farley, who went by “Pete.” The problem is, Pete died by suicide two years after McCormick’s murder.

Over the years, Howard tried to bring this new evidence back before the court. But the judge in his case said, “We are not going to try a dead person.”

“The judge just basically said you can’t try somebody who’s not here anymore. That prejudices the state,” Judee said.

That’s where Judee got the title for her book, You Can’t Try a Dead Man. Five of the six people who claim they heard Pete Farley take responsibility are also dead. However, there is nothing that can convince McCormick’s relatives that someone else is responsible.

“We’ve been down this road so many times, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, here we go again,'” Christie Hamrick said.

Christie Hamrick and Marilyn Monfort are McCormick’s sister and mother.

Angela Kennecke: Is there anything that could convince you that Jeff Howard didn’t kill Duane?
Hamrick: Absolutely not.
Monfort: No.

Even with nearly all legal avenues exhausted, Judee won’t give up hope that her husband will be set free.

Kennecke: Do you believe that Jeff is innocent?
Judee Howard: 100 percent.
Kennecke: You’re his wife.
Judee Howard: I’m his wife, yes. I didn’t come to the conclusion easily that he was innocent. And I’m not the only one who has come to that conclusion.

Judee Howard

The Innocence Project has also come to that conclusion and has taken on Howard’s case.
The hammer, believed to have been used in the crime, is now undergoing DNA testing. They’re hoping that could exonerate the man who has now spent 41 years locked up.

“If his DNA is there, Jeff Howard should be on the fast track to exoneration and going home. If it’s not, we still have a strong case for innocence,” Andrew Markquart, Attorney for the Great North Innocence Project, said.

But was that really the hammer used in McCormick’s murder?

We look at never before seen details of the 1981 murder case and hear from some of Pete Farley’s own relatives who also believe that Farley is the one who committed the crime in Dead men don’t talk.