Mobile Police Department Establishes Special Committee, Why Can’t Mobile District Attorney’s Office Establish a Conviction Integrity Unit?

Mobile Police Department Establishes Special Committee, Why Can’t Mobile District Attorney’s Office Establish a Conviction Integrity Unit?

March 27, 2014

I read with interest AL.com’s Theresa Seiger’s article about newly appointed Mobile Police Chief James Barber’s establishment of a committee to address policies and procedures in the awake of recent officer related shootings.  Specifically, the committee will consist of several officers appointed by Barber to review officer related shootings (http://blog.al.com/live/2014/03/newly_formed_committee_to_revi.html#incart_river_default)

Seiger writes in her article that Barber had discussed this possibility when he was sworn in this past November. However, the incident that seemed to move this up on his agenda was the recently officer related shooting of a dog when an officer entered the backyard of a home owner in pursuit of a fleeing suspect.  On March 17th, 2014 I listened to Sean Sullivan’s show on FM 106.5 talk following this incident and his show was full of calls and a former officer, discussing this case of the officer shooting a homeowner’s dog during the chase pursuit (the homeowners were not the suspects, rather a suspect allegedly ran into their backyard).  It has garnered much media attention.  Police Chief Barber, it seems in response to this attention, offered a response, a committee to review officer related shootings. Yes, it will be officers reviewing the actions of other officers, as opposed to a citizen review board, but it is a response.

District Attorney Ashley Rich and Conviction Integrity Unit

Why won’t Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, in response to evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions reported by the media since her swearing in in 2011, establish a Conviction Integrity Unit similar to the one established by Dallas County, Texas District Attorney Craig Watkins. Below is information about the Dallas County, Texas Conviction Integrity Unit:

“Established by District Attorney Craig Watkins in July of 2007, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and re-investigates legitimate post conviction claims of innocence in accordance with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 64 (Motion for Forensic DNA Testing).  In addition, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and prosecutes old cases (DNA and non-DNA related) where evidence identifies different or additional perpetrators.  Special Field Bureau Chief Russell Wilson supervises the Conviction Integrity Unit, the Appellate Division, the Public Integrity Division, the Federal Division and the Mental Health Unit, as well as public information, evidence destruction and expunctions at the District Attorney’s Office.  The Conviction Integrity Unit is staffed by two assistant district attorney, one investigator and one legal assistant.  This special division is the first of its kind in the United States.” http://www.dallasda.com/division/conviction-integrity-unit/

As mentioned, media coverage of officer related shootings seemed to prompt Mobile Police Chief James Barber to establish a committee to review said shootings.  Since District Attorney Ashley Rich moved from her Assistant District Attorney position to the District Attorney position in 2011, the local media aired or printed information about the following cases:

Toby Priest

From Lagniappe Mobile: “Did Toby Priest Spend Three Years in Jail for a Crime He Did Not Commit?” http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=4983&sid=1

From the Al.com/ Mobile Press Register: “Prosecution Drops Robbery Case Against Mobile Man” http://blog.al.com/live/2011/10/prosecution_drops_robbery_case.html

FYI here is a blog that I wrote in response to the LagniappeMobile investigative piece. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/11/16/reaction-to-article-in-lagniappe-about-the-toby-priest-case/

William Ziegler (currently on death row in Alabama):

From the AL.com/ Mobile Press Register: “How the System Failed William Ziegler: Perjured Testimony, Trashed Evidence, Lying Jurors.” http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/how_the_system_failed_william.html

From Lagniappe Mobile: “Who Killed Allen Baker? Judge’s Order Suggests Murder Case Stacked Against Death Row Inmate.” http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5961

From Al.com/Mobile Press Register: Prosecutor, Defense Lawyer Clash at Appeals Court Over Overturn of Capital Murder Conviction.”  http://blog.al.com/live/2013/10/prosecutor_defense_lawyer_clas_1.html

George Martin (currently on death row in Alabama)

From Al.com/ The Times Picayune: Former Alabama State Trooper Convicted of Burning Wife to Death Seeks New Trial (update)”: http://blog.al.com/live/2012/04/former_alabama_state_trooper_g.html

From al.com/Press Register: “Judge Overturns 13 year Old Capital Murder Conviction of Mobile-Based Trooper. http://blog.al.com/live/2013/09/judge_overturns_13-year-old_ca.html

From the Equal Justice Initiative: “New Trial Ordered for Death Row Inmate George Martin Due to Prosecutorial Misconduct” http://www.eji.org/node/816

Conclusion

Rob Holbert of Lagniappe wrote the following in a column calling for an Innocence Project in Alabama wrote:

“While it is awful to consider that innocent people have gone to jail, what is even more troubling is that some prosecutors may not have the capacity to look at their own work critically when problems arise. No one likes to be wrong, but everyone is wrong from time to time. Prosecutors are not exempt from that rule of life.

One thing that has become clear to me over years is the legal system is far from perfect, and often because of the sheer glut of cases, expediency takes precedent over thoroughness. What’s even clearer is the power judges, prosecutors and police have to make certain things happen when they want to.”

If District Attorney Ashley Rich were to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit, it would be a case of prosecutors evaluating the work of their fellow prosecutors, but, like the committee established by Mobile Police Chief James Barber, that leadership is listening and wants to do something to assure the public that there is complete integrity in the pursuit of protecting the public.  The Mobile Police Department is experience budget cuts, yet, Barber found a way to do something to address the concerns of the public.  Why can’t Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich do the same?

In conclusion, I asked Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich and her opponent Mark Erwin during the 2010 campaign to replace District Attorney John Tyson, Jr. about how they would address wrongful convictions. This is just my opinion, but I think Mark Erwin would have done something to assure the public’s trust of the aforementioned cases came to the public’s view during his administration.  http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/11/21/another-judge-grants-a-new-trial-in-mobile-alabama-a-reaction-to-the-lagniappe-article-on-william-zieglar/

District Attorney Ashley Rich can be reached at (251) 574-8400, (251) 574-5000 or via email at ashleyrich@mobileda.org in the event that you wish to request that she establishes a Conviction Integrity Unit.

Sincerely,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

PS Below is a blog writer in January which includes why Rodney K. Stanberry’s case should be reviewed. His case was also mentioned in Rob Holbert’s piece calling for an Innocence Project (also written after District Attorney Ashley Rich moved from Assistant District Attorney to being elected to serve as the district attorney). http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2014/01/13/fighting-for-funding-fighting-for-justice-establish-a-conviction-integrity-unit/

On March 25th, 2014, Rodney K. Stanberry began his 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit.

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Rodney K. Stanberry- Innocent and Incarcerated: Year 18 Begins

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI

Investigative Reporter Beth Schwartzapfel talks to Dr. Wilmer Leon about Rodney’s case and her investigative report.

 Rodney K. Stanberry- Innocent and Incarcerated: Year 18 Begins

March 25th, 2014

Today (March 25th, 2014) begins Rodney K. Stanberry’s 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit.  He has now completed 17 full years in prison.  Rodney was denied parole on August 28th, 2013.  The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles stated that Rodney would have to remain with the Alabama Department of Corrections until his sentence concludes in March 2017.  This means that after spending 17 years in prison, Rodney still has three more years on his prison sentence.  The only hope he has for release before his term concludes is if an attorney will devote the time and resources to file a federal habeas petition or if Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich will do what is fair and just and work towards his release, including reopening his case for a serious review of what happened that resulted in an innocent man’s arrest, conviction and long-term incarceration.

The Mobile DA’s office had evidence of Rodney’s innocence, it didn’t fit the prosecutor’s theory, so Rodney remains in prison and an injustice continues. Please keep Rodney, his family, and the victim’s family in your thoughts/prayers, as the Mobile County District Attorney’s office has done both families wrong. No one wins when the wrong person is convicted. The person who confessed and exonerated Rodney did so approximately two years before Rodney’s trial. He (Moore) had as his attorney one of the best attorneys in Mobile, Alabama. I doubt if Moore’s attorney would invite prosecutor Buzz Jordan to his office and instruct his client to confess if his client weren’t telling the truth. Moore and his attorney no doubt believed Jordan had evidence of Moore’s guilt, but Jordan opted to pursue an innocent man instead, no one was ever tried nor convicted for the crimes against the victim, except for Rodney, who had evidence that he was at work and that he was innocent.

Rodney was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995, and began serving his prison sentence in 1997.  He was approximately just shy of 23 when arrested, 26 when sentenced, and one month shy of his 28th birthday when he spent his first day under the Alabama Department of Corrections.  He voluntarily turned himself in when his post trial appeals were exhausted, believing that the system would correct this injustice. Imagine what his 28th birthday was like, innocent, incarcerated, and away from his parents, his new baby, his wife, his sister and his loved ones. He is currently 44, he will be 45 on April 27th, 2013.   Rodney’s father was 58 when Rodney was arrested, 61 when Rodney was convicted, 63 when his son spent his first day in prison, and he is 80 on his son’s 17th complete year in prison. Rodney has a son who is now a teenager, and his mother died on September 8, 2012, cared for and surrounded by his father and his sister. His parents’ retirement years were taken away over this ordeal. Rodney came from a solidly two-parent, middle class household.  His parents were married for as long as he has been alive. He did not have a criminal record, he had a steady job that he worked at until began serving his prison term, he had a bank account, an excellent reputation as a law abiding citizen, his entire future ahead of him, close friends and family and so on.  If the Mobile DA’s office had followed the evidence instead of a theory, this ordeal would have been over long ago.  Instead, on March 25th, 2014, he will begin his 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit. While a book can and will be written to fill in what occurred during each of the years below, only some highlights are provided for your review.

Although calls to the Mobile District Attorney’s Office seem to be futile, your calls are needed to let District Attorney Ashley Rich know that you are concerned about the continued incarceration of Rodney K. Stanberry.She can be reached at (251) 574-6685, (251) 574-5000 or ashleyrich@mobileda.org or her Chief Investigator Mike Morgan at (251) 574-8400 or mikemorgan@mobileda.org.

March 24th 1997- March 24th 1998- Year 1 Adjusting to Prison Life- A Foreign Concept to an innocent man who had never been in prison.

March 24th 1998-March 24th 1999- Year2(1st letter from NAACP stating that they could not assist in this case)

March 24th 1999- March 24th 2000- Year 3(1st letter from the Mobile District Attorney’s Office:http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/20100914154832.256154014.pdf)

Rodney “celebrates” his 30th birthday in prison

March 24th-2000-March 24th 2001- Year 4

March 24th 2001-March 24th 2002- Year 5- Rule 32- Post Conviction Hearing for New trial Denied

March 24th 2002-March 24th 2003- Year 6

March 24th 2003-March 24th 2004- Year 7 “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” WKRG TV- 5 (Mobile, AL Report (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI)

March 24th 2004-March 24th 2005- Year 8(October 18, 2004-Parole Hearing- Parole Denied)

March 24th 2005-March 24th 2006- Year 9

March 24th 2006- March 24th 2007- Year 10 Important Interview on Dr. Wilmer Leon’s show, featuring Rodney’s supervisor who testified and provided work documents during trial that Rodney was at work (he also spoke at Rodney’s second parole hearing): http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=119

March 24th 2007- March 24th 2008- Year 11

March 24th 2008- March 24th 2009- Year 12 Election & Inauguration of First African American President- a lot of change since Rodney’s arrest in 1992.

March 24th 2009-March 24th 2010- Year 13  (July 8, 2009- Parole Hearing- Parole Denied)

Rodney “celebrates” his 40th birthday in prison.

“Time Served, Or Justice Denied in Alabama,” An article in Lagniappe Mobile written by Bill Riales about Rodney’s case. (June 2009,http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=2332 )

March 24th 2010- March 24th 2011Year 14 Ashley Rich is elected to replace Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, Jr.

During the campaign she was asked about what she would do if a prosecutor withheld evidence- You can listen to her response here: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich1.mp3.

She seemed very adamant about the issue and said that the integrity of every conviction is important to her.

March 24th 2011-March 24th-2012Year 15

Shortly after her swearing in, Rodney K. Stanberry supporters from around the country called her office and signed a petition in support of his release.This put Rodney’s case on her radar screen as District Attorney, not simply as candidate for the office.As stated: [District Attorney Ashley Rich] has received so many calls that she asked her new investigator to call around to see why people were calling. In honor of her first year as DA, I am asking that people call to follow up to see what she is doing with regard to [Rodney’s] case. More importantly, I’m asking people to ask her to take steps to either get the Attorney General to investigate Rodney’s case, retry or release him immediately. http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/

Journalist Kirsten West Savali was able to get District Attorney Ashley Rich’s Office on record to discuss Rodney’s case. You can read that interview here: http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/

March 24th 2012- March 24th 2013Year 16

LagniappeMobile calls for an innocent project, the editorial includes the following: “Another case I believe needs an independent look is that of Rodney Stanberry, who has been in jail for murder for roughly 20 years now. A Lagniappe story in 2009 detailed the very shaky circumstances surrounding his conviction.” (Nov 2012: http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5978)

March 2013: Investigative Journalist Beth Schwartzapfel completed and published her investigation in the Boston Review.You can read it here: “Who Shot Valerie Finley: Why Is One Man’s Innocence So Hard to Prove” http://www.bostonreview.net/BR38.2/beth_schwartzapfel_valerie_finley_innocent_convictions.php

In this article, she includes the confession by Terrell Moore, a confession that the District Attorney’s Office worked to suppress BEFORE Rodney’s trial, even as he confessed in front of the prosecutor and was given immunity from prosecution if he did so, AGAIN, before Rodney’s trial. You can read the confession here: http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/20100914155256.256155350.pdf/20100914155256.256155350.pdf.

But here is a portion of investigative journalist Beth Schwartzapfel’s article as it relates Moore appearing before Rodney Rule 32 Post Conviction Hearing:

“Aside from Mike Finley, Taco Jones, Tyrone Dortch, and five of Rodney’s coworkers who testified at Rodney’s trial, there was one additional person who would not have corroborated everything that Valerie said: Terrell Moore. Hoping that Terrell would finally “come clean,” as he had promised Ryan Russell he would, Knizely called him to the stand at the hearing. Terrell seemed prepared to testify.

But Knizely had no sooner asked Terrell his name than Martha Tierney, the assistant district attorney, jumped in. “Judge, I hate to interrupt Mr. Knizely, because I have the world of respect for him,” she began, “but if Mr. Moore is going to testify about the things we anticipate he will testify about, and I’m concerned this is a state forum, and that he would take this stand unrepresented and with no grant of immunity to make statements that could have life consequences for him. I just wish that the Court be apprised of that and our concern about that, sir.”

 Knizely was incredulous. “Judge, from our understanding, the State’s [position is that] the man—he has no credibility. And are they are telling us now they are going to prosecute him if he confesses to it?”

 It was a good question. If the district attorney’s office truly believed, as it had maintained all along, that Rodney was guilty and Terrell was (for some inscrutable reason) lying about his involvement, then why threaten to prosecute him? To prosecute him, the state would have to believe he was guilty. It would have been almost impossible for both Terrell and Rodney to be guilty, since one story contradicted the other. And yet Tierney was simultaneously defending the verdict against Rodney and threatening to prosecute Terrell. It seemed she was trying to scare Terrell off the stand in order to preserve Rodney’s conviction. The Mobile District Attorney’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment, submitted via email, by phone, and in person.

 Tierney pressed on. “If he comes in here and says ‘it’s me pals,’ then it’s goodbye sunlight for the rest of his living life, and he’s young,” she said.

 Finally, after some additional back-and-forth, Knizely was allowed to proceed. “Mr. Moore,” he began, “you recall whenever a lady named Mrs. Finley was shot? Do you remember back in those days when you were called as a witness in this case?”

 Tierney interrupted again. “Judge, may I object sir, for one minute? Could you just, Your Honor, if I may respectfully ask that at least you instruct him that he does have the right under the Fifth Amendment not to make any statements.”

 “I thought I just did that,” McRae said, “but I’ll do it again. Under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution,” he told Terrell again, “you do not have to answer any question which could even possibly incriminate you. Do you understand that?”

 “Yes, sir, I understand it.”

 “Okay, proceed,” McRae said. But Tierney interrupted again.

 “And that the State would use anything he says today, Your Honor, against him.”

 “The State can and may,” the Judge said.

 “Yes, Your Honor, I understand,” Terrell said, “and I plead the Fifth Amendment.” http://www.bostonreview.net/BR38.2/beth_schwartzapfel_valerie_finley_innocent_convictions.php

Year 18- Parole Hearing/ Parole Denied

After Rodney was denied parole for a second time, it was hoped that he would be granted parole at his 3rd parole hearing.  Again, Rodney had everything a parole board would look for, but his not being guilty may have played a role in his remaining in prison. A member of the victim’s family told the parole board that Rodney had deluded himself into believing he is innocent. When inmates come before the parole board, the parole board wants to hear that they are guilty and express remorse .Rodney refuses to say he is guilty for crimes he did not commit. It doesn’t matter that he has jobs lined up, family support, sponsors, supporting letters from co-workers, friends and even, as occurred during his previous parole, a letter from the arresting officer, the parole board wants to hear that a person is guilty.  Rodney  faces the prison dilemma of the wrongfully convicted: NYTIMES.

Below you will find links to articles and news reports concerning Rodney’s parole hearing:

Here is a WKRG TV (Mobile, AL) segment shortly before his parole hearing, a WKRG segment after his parole hearing, and a Mobile Press Register article before and after his parole hearing.  Here is another piece published in the Boston Review regarding his parole denial.  It is entitled Rehabilitation, Remose, and Innocence: Rodney Stanberry Tries for Parole. (Beth Schwartzapfel was runner up for a prestigious journalism award for her investigative piece about Rodney’s case)

As Rodney begins his 18th year of incarceration, will Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich work to release Rodney K. Stanberry?

This is a true travesty of justice.

Contact Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich at (251) 574-6685 or ashleyrich@mobileda.org or her Chief Investigator Mike Morgan at (251) 574-8400 or mikemorgan@mobileda.org.

 

Peace and Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

http://www.yourblackworld.net/2012/11/black-news/black-community-rallies-to-re-open-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

Please join us on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Rodney-K-Stanberry/228205690552328 and https://www.facebook.com/groups/freerodneykstanberry/

 

 

 

 

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Ruthless- We Should Never have to Describe People Paid and Elected to Pursue Justice as Such, But….

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI

(Note, it is Monday, February 10 as I post this blog. I originally wrote it on Nov. 30, but it is one of the many that I wrote, but did not post. As we are approaching the 80th birthday of Rodney’s father (Feb. 12th), this blog is on my mine, so I’m posting it. On March 25th, 2014, Rodney will begin his 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit, his scheduled release date is March 2017.)

November 30, 2013

Ruthless- We Should Never have to Describe People Paid and Elected to Pursue Justice as Such, But….

Ruthless, that is the word that has been on my mind, it was on my mind as I drifted off to sleep and it was the first thing on my mind when I awoke this morning. Ruthless, how can people be so ruthless? I spent the Thanksgiving Day and the day after watching The House of Cards, the Netflix series about a member of Congress, Francis “Frank” Underwood who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals for more power and prestige.  If you look up ruthless in a dictionary, his picture would be there. I spent my teen years as a misanthrope, while at the same time ultimately believing in the goodness of humankind. This is cognitive dissonance on steroids.  My thought processes as a young person were the constant wars, starvation of children that could have been prevented, the history of war, violence and cruelty of fellow human beings, animals, and the environment, although, when I was younger, the environment wasn’t the foremost concern, so this is why I labeled myself a misanthrope.  As I grew older, the anger I felt was subsided by the goodness I know is within most of us. 

In 1997, when I was began advocating for my cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry,  who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit, I believed the district attorneys in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office would respond to moral persuasion, that they would respond with a sense of what is just and what is fair.  People who believe this do not operate in a ruthless way; they continue to try to appeal to the better angels of man and continue to believe in a system, even when the system has let them down.  I mentioned after Rodney’s 1st parole hearing in 2004 that I felt a sort of naivete in believing that providing the parole board with everything that they look for would result in Rodney being granted parole*, but after his second parole hearing in 2009, I said that the idea that people working within the system actually cares about justice over the conviction had been removed (I sent out a long email to our followers in ‘04 and ‘09 following the hearing about these thoughts).   But I am not a ruthless person and I believe in the basic humanity of man- even though in dealing with Rodney’s wrongful conviction I have witnessed that the conviction is king and district attorneys are servants to it, even as it blinds them.  I don’t think I’ve used the word ruthless to describe this before, but after seeing how Frank Underwood behaved in the House of Cards, it is a name that I would give to the behavior of those who would convict innocent people and work to keep those innocent people in prison- not just the prosecutors but those within the system who sanction and help to perpetuate this situation to satisfy career goals.  When I spoke to someone who deals with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles about how the three members would respond to a moral appeal based on Rodney being innocent, the person mentioned that those members of the parole board want to be reappointed, and their reappointment isn’t based on granting paroles, especially when there is media attached to record their actions.  A conscious decision made based on politics, maintaining employment, without consideration of what is right, fair and just can be said to be careerist. But their decision could have been made for other reasons so they should state the reason (s). The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles was asked in this article why the parole board doesn’t provide a reason for denying paroles in general and Rodney’s in particular (http://www.bostonreview.net/blog/schwartzapfel-stanberry-parole).  I believe the parole board should state a reason for his parole denial and to provide a rationale for Rodney not being able to appear before the parole board again- from where did this decision originate. An individual with experience with the parole board stated that it was likely that if he were denied parole this time, that it would be reset for a year before his sentence ended. Keep reading.

A Wrongful Conviction leads to an inadvertent death sentence

In House of Cards, Frank Underwood, to achieve a plan he had set out, murdered a man.  This man had two young children, but Frank didn’t care, his ends justified the means.  He wanted to be the Vice President of these United States.  Maybe in Season 2 he will be punished for it, but we know that the punishment for those in power- such as a district attorney, a judge, or a US Congressman, in Frank Underwood’s case- is miniscule compared to the damage they have done.  The prosecutor who convicted Timothy Cole knowing he had evidence that placed doubt in Cole’s conviction went unpunished. The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, did grant Timothy Cole a pardon, but not before Cole died 13 years into his prison sentence of an asthma attack (See journalist Beth Schwartzapfel’s piece on this: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/tim-cole-rick-perry). The pardon was a posthumous pardon, Cole didn’t know, and Perry gets applauded during a Republican Presidential primary debate for the number of people his state has executed (I write about it here in this blog entitled The State Doesn’t Cry, But Maybe it Should-http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/01/17/the-state-doesn%E2%80%99t-cry-maybe-it-should-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/). 

A wrongful conviction leads to 25 years in prison

Michael Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  He was accused and convicted of murdering his wife.  District Attorney Ken Anderson of the Williamson County, Texas District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Anderson.   He had exculpatory information that he withheld and went on to get the conviction. He would later become a judge and in the 25 years that Morton spent languishing in prison, Ken Anderson built a successful career- a prosecutor who gets convictions moves up to becoming a judge, the path to success that requires a bit of ruthless behavior. You have a high profile case, a man killing his wife, well that’s big news, if it later turns out that he is innocent, perhaps you know before his trial, well, the ruthless person can’t turn back now, so what if he has a son, so what if he will go to prison with the label of murderer, I got a career to think about.  Anderson’s ruthless behavior finally caught up to him (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/04/22/when-texas-gets-it-right-former-prosecutor-held-criminally-responsible-for-putting-innocent-man-in-prison/), but the punishment didn’t fit the crime- in a plea bargain to end civil and criminal charges against him http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/ken-anderson-begins-serving-jail-sentence-in-micha/nbrck/, he had to give up his law license and spend less than 10 days in jail- mind you, this was at the tail end of his career. So you may say he is embarrassed and this took away from his reputation. Mike Morton’s own son believed what the District Attorney’s Office fed him, he changed his last name when he turned 18;  Morton had to spend years in prison dealing with that reality.  Anderson’s successor John Bradley mocked Morton for maintaining his innocence.  Morton endured more than 25 years of mental torture, from his arrest, conviction, sentence, and even his life today, while Anderson suffers from what? People who are ruthless and who work within the system know that the punishment won’t fit the crime, so it continues. 

Rodney K. Stanberry- Still in Prison for Crimes he did not commit

As I was sitting in Rodney K. Stanberry’s third parole hearing on August 28th, 2013 and for the three months following his hearing that I’ve had to think about it, I couldn’t quite put into words how I felt about many of the players involved.  The members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles took less than 2 minutes to deliberate before saying that Rodney would remain with them, but the decision, I believe, was made well before that day. When Joe Carl “Buzz” Jordan, the prosecutor in Rodney’s case, made a decision to let a theory outweigh any evidence contradicting his theory, he established the baseline of ruthless behavior as it related to Rodney K. Stanberry’s case.  He just had to convince the victim and the victim’s family that Rodney was involved and they he should be punished even though he was at work when the crimes occurred, even as there is a confession by another individual.  What conversations did he have in private? Rodney was convicted based on eyewitness testimony of the victim, who was brutally attacked and shot in the head. (For more information read: Who Shot Valerie Finley: Why One Man’s Innocence is Difficult to Prove by Beth Schwartzapfel).  75% of those exonerated with DNA were convicted based on eyewitness misidentification. I don’t blame the victim, I believe she believed what she said, but I know that law enforcement had evidence to show that it was misidentification, but they said nothing, because the conviction was more important. Mike Morgan, the current chief investigator says to this that the victim knew Rodney.  Here is his first interview about Rodney’s case. Journalist Kirsten West Savali was able to get this interview with him:

In an exclusive interview with NewsOne, District Attorney’s Office Chief Investigator Mike Morgan, brushes those facts aside, stating that there is still no reason for Rodney Stanberry to be granted another trial:

“All the evidence was heard by the judge during the trial. A decision was made not to allow the jury to hear Terrell Moore’s testimony. A jury found Mr. Stanberry guilty after a trial; that’s why we have a jury system. I will agree with your statement that eye-witness testimony is the most unreliable testimony, but not in this case. Valerie Finley identified Stanberry; she knew him.

For there to be a new trial, “new and compelling” testimony would have to be presented. Even if the jury was not allowed to hear Moore’s testimony, that was a decision made by the judge.” http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/

 

In a follow-up article Kirsten West Savali interviewed an attorney not involved in Rodney’s case who said this:

Attorney Guster also questions the validity of Valerie Finley’s identification of Stanberry so soon after waking from a coma:

“[This] seems to be a flawed identification,” said Guster. “The prosecutor should question whether her ID was valid because of her state of mind when the ID was made, her mental capacity when making the ID and whether she fully understood what she was doing. Being in a coma is a traumatic mental health and physical event. A person’s mind and body have both been essentially shut down for some time.

“She may have been picking anyone familiar to her but who may not have been the true perpetrator of the crime. According to what I have read, she was asked if she saw someone familiar. Of course she would pick Mr. Stanberry; he was a family friend. In my professional opinion, this is a flawed and skewed identification.

Though the case seems to have stalled in the district attorney’s office, Guster insists that by no means equals defeat. (http://www.yourblackworld.net/2012/11/black-news/black-community-rallies-to-re-open-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/)

 The Prosecutor Sets the Script for a Wrongful Conviction- Others Follow

Buzz Jordan set the course of action, and what he set into action, former Mobile District John Tyson, Jr., current Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney, current District Attorney Ashley Rich, Chief Investigator Michael Morgan, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole, the late Judge Ferrell McRae and one other person stayed with the script.  Jordan can travel to Rikers Island prison in New York from Mobile, Alabama before Rodney’s trial  to visit the person the State says was the person who shot the victim and then say under oath at Rodney’s post conviction hearing that he was on vacation so no notes were taken and, oh, by the way, according to Jordan, the person he visited said to follow the husband (what was said in private by Jordan to keep people from focusing on the facts and the actual culprits, did HE posit and then convince people, including the jury, although this was never an official charge, that this was a murder for hire scheme?). During Rodney’s  post-conviction hearing, current ADA Tierney did not question Jordan’s statement regarding his trip to New York, she would have gone off script. I mean to question a prosecutor traveling to a prison to visit a suspect but not taking any notes may result in results better not included in the Rule 32 Hearing? Who believes this? But, when she was  confronted with Terell Moore, the person who confessed to Jordan in front of his attorney, one of the best and most well-known attorneys in Mobile, Tierney plays her role, her role to protect the conviction, not to question the prosecutor who got the conviction: to paraphrase slightly- I’m sorry Judge (McRae), but I need to tell Moore that he, you are a young man, and if you say what I think you will say, then it is lights out for you, think about it, Mr. Moore.  After hearing this from the person in power who is letting him (Moore) remain free for a crime he committed, he pled the 5th, again. What power does the District Attorney’s Office have over people who want to do the right thing? The power to take away the freedom they’ve granted you so that they can continue to deny freedom to someone who they wrongfully convicted. 

Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich

In comes new District Attorney Ashley Rich and her Chief Investigator Michael Morton (see Savali’s article above) and on Rodney’s parole.  From Mobile Press Register Brendan Kirby’s article:

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich said she is not sending a representative of her office to personally attend the parole hearing. But she said she opposes it.

“We have always taken the position that we oppose his parole,” she said.

Rich said numerous assistant district attorneys have re-examined the evidence over the years. “Our opinion about the case has not changed,” she said. http://freerodneystanberry.com/the_confession-_testimonial_immunity_agreement

I spent the first years of Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich’s administration asking her to reopen Rodney’s case and asking if she planned to send an assistant district attorney to Rodney’s parole hearing- I asked the latter because since she was elected as the first female District Attorney in Mobile in 2010 (after working as assistant district attorney for 14 years under John Tyson, Jr.’s leadership and as a colleague with Martha Tierney), that her goal was to block paroles and that she would send someone from the DA’s Office to do so.  While I was asking this, I had no idea that the District Attorney’s Office was actually prosecuting a member of the victim’s family and that Buzz Jordan was the defense attorney. Jordan referenced indirectly during this trial  that took place Nov. 2013 (I don’t yet have the full transcript). According to Mobile Press Register reporter Michael Dumas in his coverage of the trial that took place a month or so ago:

This case had familial connections for Patrick both outside, and within, the courtroom. Seated beside her during the trial was her brother, Terrell McCants, who appeared as one of her attorneys, working pro bono. Also litigating for free was McCants’ friend, attorney James Harred.

At the start of the trial, Buzz Jordan, who led the defense, introduced himself as someone who had known Patrick since she was 9 years old, when her mother was the victim of a shooting that left her paralyzed. (http://blog.al.com/live/2013/11/jury_rules_maysville_woman_was.html)

Conclusion

Keeping Rodney in prison hasn’t been about justice for the victim, accountability to the taxpayers, and definitely not about justice for Rodney. It has been to keep in place the mistake/decision Jordan made in convicting the innocent while letting the guilty go. In hindsight, what went on during Rodney’s parole hearing wasn’t about Rodney, it was about making sure that the motion that Frank Underwood/Buzz Jordan put into place would stay in place. During the parole hearing, a member of the victim’s family,  the attorney working with Buzz Jordan on the case Dumas profiles, said that Rodney should remain in prison for the full sentence and that at that time, the family would not protest his release. I will save my comments about this for a book I am writing about Rodney’s case. But remember Men in Black 3, when we discovered the actual beginning of the relationship between Will Smith’s and Tommy Lee Jones’ characters?  I will explain what this reference means to this case in a book.

Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted. Buzz Jordan could have convicted the individuals actually involved in the crimes. Rodney tried to help the State capture the actual culprits for he did not care if the shooter was a friend of his, he wanted to pursue justice for the victim and for the system.  He was an innocent man who cared about justice that ran into a ruthless machine. And for that, he is on his 17th year in prison for crimes he did not commit.

Peace, 

Artemesia Stanberry

*When we went before the parole board, we had everything that was asked of us; we had counseling for Rodney, a job plan (his former job wrote a letter stating that he has a job upon his release), a supportive family, friends, and a support network.   It didn’t matter.  His parole was denied.  I truly will never forget that day.

 

Links regarding Rodney’s parole final parole hearing:

Here is a WKRG TV (Mobile, AL) segment shortly before his parole hearing, a WKRG
segment
after his parole hearing, and a Mobile Press Register article before and after
his parole hearing.
  Here is another piece published in the Boston Review regardin his parole denial.  It is entitled Rehabilitation, Remose, and Innocence: Rodney Stanberry Tries for Parole. The struggle to vindicate and exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry will
continue. Please continue to keep this page and our blog bookmarked for various
calls for action.

 

 

 

Posted in Blogs by Art, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Fighting for Funding, Fighting for Justice-Establish a Conviction Integrity Unit

Fighting for Funding, Fighting for Justice: Establish a Conviction Integrity Unit in Mobile, AL

I should be in the courtroom every day fighting criminals. It should not be that I’m having now to fight certain county commissioners for funding. Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, January 10, 2014, Uncle Henry Show

The idea of the innocent man jailed for a crime he didn’t commit is a concept so frightening to law-abiding citizens that it routinely serves as the plotline for books and movies like “The Shawshank Redemption.” An innocent falling into the maw of the judicial system and winding up rotting in jail for something he didn’t do is a special kind of Hell. But that kind of thing only happens in movies, right? Rob Holbert, Lagniappe Mobile, November 28, 2012, Lagniappe Mobile

First of all, it is good to know that Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich respects activism surrounding a cause.  She is fighting for what she believes is just, resources to help her to put away the criminals as she was elected to do.  Welcome to the club, District Attorney Rich.  According to an article written by Michael Dumas, DA Rich, “In her Jan. 8, 2014, email, Rich urged the recipients to ‘reach out to your county commissioner and encourage them to stop fighting our budget requests and sit down and work with us to find a solution that will keep our prosecutors in the courtroom fighting criminals.’”http://blog.al.com/live/2014/01/fight_for_funding_between_mobi.html This is a response to an ongoing dispute about whether or not the Mobile County Commission is providing the level of funding legally required.  Here is the message District Attorney Rich sent, posted on her twitter account: http://www.mobileda.org/mobiledaofficeevents.htm. Further, District Attorney Ashley Rich appeared on the Uncle Henry Show (Newsradio AM 710) on Friday, January 10th to appeal to the public to support her efforts to get more funds from the Mobile County Commission.  She said that she was elected to fight crime not to fight the county commission.  DA Ashley Rich is about to begin her 3rd year as the district attorney for Mobile County, that’s a campaign slogan (she has a 6 year term). To hear District Attorney on the Uncle Henry Show, click here           (http://www.livestream.com/unclehenry/video?clipId=pla_0b1c8e36-e56b-407c-88c5-5f08d286eae5&utm_source=lslibrary&utm_medium=ui-thumb). She also asks that he (Uncle Henry) post her email exchanges with County Commission President Merceria Ludgood and Connie Hudson on his website. At the end of the interview she hands him papers, she is serious about her efforts to put public pressure on the Mobile County Commission (specifically Ludgood and Hudson, as she says Commissioner Jerry Carl is trying to find a compromise). Yes, District Attorney Ashley Rich is in support of good old fashion grassroots activism- when it is something she wants.  Now, of course, I support Rich’s efforts to have the resources to fight crime, but I also believe those resources should be tied to helping to prevent and address wrongful convictions. She said that when she goes into the court room, she wears a white hat.  But does everyone? Does she not make mistakes? Do her prosecutors not make mistakes that result in innocent people remaining in prison. DA Rich knows, like so many others, that the chances of being exonerated once convicted are extremely low. Is she fine with conviction, even if it is of an innocent person, and what happens after that is left up to chance? Two cases that grabbed the attention of Mobile Judges and the Mobile media since she was sworn in as DA are relevant for consideration when talking about the role of prosecutors. I write about the Toby Priest and William Zieglar case here:http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/11/21/another-judge-grants-a-new-trial-in-mobile-alabama-a-reaction-to-the-lagniappe-article-on-william-zieglar/. Further, Lagniappe Mobile published an editorial calling for the need for an Innocence Project and stated that Rodney’s case needed an independent look: http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5978.

I wrote about this funding dispute in 2011.  I called and asked others to call the three Mobile County Commissioners to request that any additional funding to the Mobile District Attorney’s Office be tied to the establishment of a Conviction Integrity Unit so that wrongful convictions can be addressed, prevented and overturned. As I mentioned in the blog written in 2011:

“You can call all three Mobile County Commissioners and ask them to insist that the Mobile District Attorney’s Office establishes a Conviction  Integrity Unit similar to one established by District Attorney Craig Watkins in Dallas County, Texas. Here is information about the Conviction Integrity Unit: Conviction Integrity Unit

“Established by District Attorney Craig Watkins in July of 2007, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and re-investigates legitimate post conviction claims of innocence in accordance with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 64 (Motion for Forensic DNA Testing).  In addition, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and prosecutes old cases (DNA and non-DNA related) where evidence identifies different or additional perpetrators.  Special Field Bureau Chief Russell Wilson supervises the Conviction Integrity Unit, the Appellate Division, the Public Integrity Division, the Federal Division and the Mental Health Unit, as well as public information, evidence destruction and expunctions at the District Attorney’s Office.  The Conviction Integrity Unit is staffed by two assistant district attorney, one investigator and one legal assistant.  This special division is the first of its kind in the United States.” (source www.dallasda.com) http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/07/26/mobile-da-mobile-county-commission-rodney-stanberry-make-the-call/”

Costs of Keeping Innocent Incarcerated

Since I first wrote about this in 2011, Rodney K. Stanberry, who is in his 17th year of incarceration for crimes he did not commit, was denied parole for a third time.*  District Attorney Ashley Rich, has now been in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office as long as Rodney has been incarcerated, first as assistant district attorney under John Tyson, Jr. and then as District Attorney beginning in January 2011. Her Chief Investigator, Mike Morgan, said in this article that there is no reason for Rodney to be granted a new trial and District Attorney Ashley Rich said this when asked by a reporter about her position on Rodney’s parole hearing this past August, she said: “We have always taken the position that we oppose his parole” http://blog.al.com/live/2013/08/convicted_of_crime_he_insists.html.

The Mobile County Commission should stand strong, give the DA’s Office more money if they agree to establish a conviction integrity unit to help prevent wrongful convictions and to help those who have evidence that a wrongful conviction may have occurred. Of course this assumes that the Mobile County Commission is concerned enough about wrongful convictions that they want monies tied to addressing this.  But even if they aren’t concerned about wrongful convictions, per se, certainly they are concerned about the costs related to keeping innocent people in prison. The members of the  Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles stated on August 28th, 2013 at Rodney’s parole hearing that Rodney will remain with the State of Alabama as an inmate until he serves out his sentence in March 2017.  This means 20 years of incarceration for Rodney.  If it costs on average $13,000 to incarcerate a person in Alabama, it has already cost the taxpayers nearly $220,000 to incarcerate Rodney K. Stanberry (17 X 13,000). When he is released in 2017, the cost will exceed $250,000. If there are 5 wrongful convictions with 20 year sentences, that’s over a million dollars!  How many salaries for Assistant District Attorneys could this provide for?  This should be addressed. The taxpayers deserve to know that there is integrity in every conviction.

Again, I applaud District Attorney Ashley Rich for asking 5,000 constituents on her email listserv to contact the Mobile County Commissioners.  I ask that you do the same, with the caveat that a Conviction Integrity Unit should be established.  They can be reached via this link http://www.mobilecountyal.gov/government/govt_elected.html.  But I also ask that you contact District Attorney Ashley Rich to request that she allows for an independent third party to review Rodney’s case. She can be reached at (251) 574-5000, (251) 574-8400 or ashleyrich@mobileda.org.

Why District Attorney Ashley Rich Should Allow an Open, Independent Review of Rodney K. Stanberry’s case?

1)     Exculpatory evidence withheld- prosecutor travelled from Mobile to Rikers Island Prison in New York to visit the person the DA’s office claimed was the shooter.  He stated at Rodney’s Rule 32 post-conviction hearing, which took place a few years AFTER Rodney’s trial, that he was on vacation so no notes were taken. John Tyson, Jr. said in a letter to me that it was part of his investigation. Which is correct?  DA Rich could easily conduct an investigation into this, that is if she was serious about what she said during this interview during her campaign about the importance of not withholding exculpatory evidence. (Here is a link to her interview, also from the Uncle Henry Show: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich.mp3 and a link for more information about exculpatory evidence and Rodney’s case: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_confession-_testimonial_immunity_agreement)

 

2)     The Confession.  The person who confessed to being one of two people at the victim’s home exonerated Rodney. This confession was made in the offices of one of the most powerful and influential attorneys in Mobile, Alabama. This was his attorney and I’m sure this attorney would not have encouraged his client to confess in front of the prosecutor if what he said was not true. This remains amazing to me that prosecutor Buzz Jordan could get this confession suppressed. Here is a WKRG interview and here is the confession: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI and http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_confession-_testimonial_immunity_agreement

3)     Law Enforcement was at the victim’s home, law enforcement was sent to gather evidence. Yet at the trial, there is no physical evidence. Why? The Alabama Department of Forensics was sent material, what happened to it by the time of the trial. A Conviction Integrity Unit would review this. http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/prichard_police_captain_frank_dees_and_sergeant_eddie_ragland

While District Attorney Ashley Rich is content with Rodney K. Stanberry remaining in prison for 20 years, the Mobile County Commissioners and the taxpayers of Mobile County should not be content with innocent people spending decades in prison. In the past three years, since Rich has been District Attorney, we have heard about the Toby Priest case and William Zieglar cases due to judicial rulings, two questionable convictions that happened before she became the District Attorney (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/11/21/another-judge-grants-a-new-trial-in-mobile-alabama-a-reaction-to-the-lagniappe-article-on-william-zieglar/). DA Rich has been in that office for more than 16 years (14 as ADA under John Tyson, Jr. and 2 as the District Attorney).  It is very much within the realm of possibility that a handful of people are convicted innocents who remain in prison.  An innocent person here and there surely adds up when you are talking about the cost of incarceration and the integrity of the judicial system.

Mobile County Commissioners, please stand your ground on this. In your responses to the media and public, you have stated that you’ve provided the necessary funding. Additional funding going to the district attorney’s office should include a Conviction Integrity Unit.  I realize that on this your position is that you do not have jurisdiction over criminal matters relating to the DA’s office, but you obviously have jurisdiction over the funding and if it is costing taxpayers of Mobile hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute and keep innocent people in prison, then, again, that should be a concern for you. DA Rich said she wanted you all to work together to find a solution that will keep our prosecutors in the courtroom fighting criminals. She should be willing to work with you to use any additional monies given to hire prosecutors and staff to fight against injustice that leads to taxpayers dishing out lots of money to pay for the “mistakes” of prosecutors. As I’ve stated many times before, prosecutors are needed, there are truly a lot of really bad people in this world, but they should not be given a blank check to prosecute people who are likely innocent, and to spend their careers keeping those people in prison.  One can be law and order AND supportive of efforts to ensure that innocent people are not in prison. 99% of people prosecuted may be guilty, but what happens when the innocent are incarcerated? District Attorney Ashley Rich and the Mobile County Commission (and the Alabama State Legislative Body) should have a substantial response to this question.

Peace,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

Here is an investigative piece about Rodney’s case: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

*Here is a WKRG
TV
(Mobile, AL) segment shortly before his parole hearing, a WKRG
segment
after his parole hearing, and a Mobile
Press Register article before
and after
his parole hearing.
  Here is another piece published in the Boston Review
regardin his parole denial.  It is entitled Rehabilitation, Remose, and Innocence: Rodney Stanberry Tries for
Parole
. The struggle to vindicate and exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry will
continue.

 

 

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The Holiday Blues- Injustice Doesn’t Take a Holiday

http://www.wkrg.com/video?clipId=9248894&autostart=true

The Holiday Blues- Injustice Doesn’t Take a Holiday

December 23, 2013

This time of year is generally tough for me, for friends and family members of those wrongfully convicted, and, of course, for the prisoner who yearns for justice and freedom.  I’m speaking as an advocate for someone who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. It is tough because at the end of the year, many are taking a break and/or are wrapping up work as the year concludes.  Understanding this reality means that one has to wait out the holiday season with the hope that someone will open up an email and respond when January rolls around.  For example, two years ago after reading a piece in Mother Jones by Beth Schwartzapfel entitled No County for Innocent Men about Timothy Cole, who died during his 13th year in prison for crimes he did not commit, I sent her an email praising her article and telling her about my cousin’s case, as is customary when I read about wrongful convictions.  She said she would call me after the holidays- in January to talk more about Rodney’s case.  Needless to say it was a long wait. It is not often that people respond when one reaches out to them, so when they do and state that they would like to talk more, it makes for a long wait while also wondering if the person would be interested when the stated date comes around. Fortunately, Beth was, and she would later write an extensive investigative article about my cousin’s case entitled Who Shot Valerie Finley .

Rodney K. Stanberry is on his 17th year in prison for crimes he did not commit.  Every Christmas he is incarcerated is a Christmas away from his family and friends.  Rodney came from a close-knit, two parent household.  He has missed every Christmas at home with his family since 1997.  His mother died on September 8th, 2012.  Not only was he unable to spend the Christmas season with her, he was unable to attend her funeral.  His parents had been married for as long as he has been alive- 44+ years. His father will be 80 years old in February. Rodney is spending another Christmas away from his now teen-aged son, a son who was a baby during Rodney’s first year of incarceration. You can imagine what his son would want for Christmas.

My first blog of this year (2013) was entitled A Relentless Pursuit of Justice and it included the following:

[Rodney has remained a strong father for his teenage son. Rodney and I have exchanged so many letters since his incarceration in 1997. At times, I review some of the letters. I recently found one that included what you see below. It is heartwrenching and heartbreaking but shows the love of a father towards his son and son towards father regardless of the situation both are in.

(August 2004 This begins on page 6) “Me and Tre (Rodney’s son, he was about 7 or 8 in 2004, 16 now) took a picture last month that I wanted to send you, wanted to! For some reason, I just can’t come off any pictures of my baby. Isn’t that natural though? My visit day is Sunday, but here’s what’s up. The Mitchell Center is putting on a hunting expo from 4pm to 8pm, so I plan to tell dad to cancel their trip up here, and take Tre there instead. He’ll love that! Darn (he used the other word), I gotta get out there to my baby, Art. Did I tell you what he said on the yard? I told him I love him more than most fathers who are out there with their sons. He said ‘I know dad, if you were out, we would be doing something right now.” That stuff (he used another word) made me feel so good, Art. Then he said something that hurt me and made me feel good at the same time….” ]

Another Christmas is upon us.

It is another year of Rodney K. Stanberry not being able to spend with his family as a free man.  This year is even more difficult because it is the year that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied parole for Rodney. On Wednesday, August 28th, 2013, Rodney K. Stanberry was denied parole and he will not have another chance to appear before the parole board.  His scheduled release date is March 2017.  We truly believed that this would be the year that Rodney would be granted parole*. Here is an article by Beth Schwartzapfel regarding his parole denial. While Rodney is the one incarcerated and has been for 17 years, I feel a degree of hurt and pain, even though I am free. As we conclude this year with results that we didn’t hope for, I feel a different level of hurt and pain that comes with failing someone.  I’ve gone over so many times what I could have done differently, who else could I have and should I have contacted, and wondering why I had (and have) so much faith and trust in a system that continues to perpetuate this injustice.  I’ve said before that the feeling I’ve felt up to this point was like a heart ache, but now it is beyond that. Some days it takes every ounce of strength in me to not only continue to reach out to all who will listen, but to also be a stronger advocate when the New Year comes around.  I wrote in a blog entitled The Continued Struggle for Freedom following his parole hearing what we still can do moving forward. It is our intent to continue to rally you all for your continued support and to keep up the battle to free an innocent man.  Rodney is deserving of his freedom.

I try to think about Michael Morton, Greg Taylor, John Thompson, Darryl Hunt and so many others who spent year after year after year after year in prison as innocent people. They had a level of strength that few of us can imagine.  Rodney has that strength.  It is admirable. But each of the individuals I mentioned along with countless others depended (and depends) on people not forgetting them and not giving up on them.  The odds are so high when it comes to overturning a conviction, but they are even higher if we do nothing, if we remain silent, if we are resigned to just accepting what the system deals out.

So I hope you all will continue to pay attention to Rodney’s case and to share his case with others.  If you haven’t yet done so, please join the Free Rodney Stanberry Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/freerodneykstanberry/.  And for more information about Rodney’s case, please go to www.freerodneystanberry.com.

Thank you for your time during this holiday season. You are truly appreciated.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

Artemesia Stanberry is an advocate for Rodney K. Stanberry, who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. In March of 2014, he will complete 17 full years, with three more still to go unless the judicial system corrects itself.

*Here is a WKRG TV (Mobile, AL) segment shortly before his parole hearing, a WKRG segment after his parole hearing, and a Mobile Press Register article before and after his parole hearing.  Here is another piece published in the Boston Review regarding his parole denial.  It is entitled Rehabilitation, Remose, and Innocence: Rodney Stanberry Tries for Parole.

PS At any time during the year, you can contact Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich to encourage her to reopen Rodney’s case. She can be reached at (251) 574-8400, (251) 574-5000, or via email at ashleyrich@mobileda.org. Her Chief Investigator, Mike Morgan, said in this article that there is no reason for Rodney to be granted a new trial and District Attorney Ashley Rich said this when asked by a reporter about her position on Rodney’s parole hearing: “We have always taken the position that we oppose his parole,” she said.”http://blog.al.com/live/2013/08/convicted_of_crime_he_insists.html

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The Continued Struggle to Free an Innocent Man- The Case of Rodney K. Stanberry

(longer version)

September 8, 2013

Greetings:

On Wednesday, August 28th, 2013, Rodney K. Stanberry was denied parole by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.  He is on his 17th year of a 20 year sentence and will not have a chance to appear before the parole board again.  Rodney has 3 and a half years left on his sentence.  His scheduled release date is March 2017.

It was frustrating that he was not granted parole.  He had traits a parole board might consider favorable in an inmate coming before them- a lack of a criminal record and history, gainful employment before he entered prison, programs in prison that he has taken advantage of, a strong support system, employment lined up, and so on.  Rodney, as is the case with other inmates, did not appear before the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.  His 79 year old father and his sister spoke on his behalf.  It was heartbreaking to watch his father make his final plea before the parole board.  The first time I saw tears in his father’s eyes was when Rodney was fist denied parole back in 2004, after serving 7 years in prison.  While getting parole isn’t an easy task, it is even harder when the board desires a false display of remorse from an innocent inmate falsely convicted.  It was stated by someone who spoke before the parole board in opposition to Rodney’s parole that Rodney maintaining his innocence shows that he has deluded himself into thinking he is innocent.  While we did not present a case of innocence during the hearing, this statement was made and we did not have a chance to address it.

We did address the challenges that an inmate maintaining his innocence has when his case appears before the parole board (http://www.change.org/petitions/the-alabama-board-of-pardons-and-paroles-grant-parole-to-rodney-k-stanberry). There have been several independent journalists who have looked into Rodney’s case.  These are not people who are part of Rodney’s family.  Their reports point to his innocence.  Here is an extensive investigative report from earlier this year—(http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley).  We would very much welcome the Mobile District Attorney’s Office allowing an independent investigator, not affiliated with their office, to review Rodney’s case.  District Attorney Craig Watkins of the Dallas County, Texas District Attorney’s Office did just that, he allowed an innocence project to review case files and as a result, there were many exonerations.  The Georgia Innocence Project has Rodney’s case in their files, perhaps one of their attorneys could review it. If prosecutors are about getting to the truth, why not allow fresh eyes to review cases where there is evidence of innocence?  Instead, far too many prosecutors promote a culture of getting a conviction at all costs and maintaining the conviction.  When this happens, the guilty go free, while the innocent serve time in prison. How is society safer?  In Rodney’s case, if law enforcement would have arrested the guilty culprits, at least one death of another innocent bystander would have been prevented, as well as other robberies. It seems that prosecutors aren’t as concerned about the victims in cases where they let the guilty go.  In Rodney’s case, prosecutors wanted and still want to pretend that the person who actually shot the victim did not exist (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away).  This should be disappointing and discouraging to all who care about justice and about the behavior of those we elect to pursue justice and to put away law breakers.

What Can We Do As We Move Forward

1)      I recently received a letter from Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders in response to a packet of information I sent to him regarding Rodney and his parole hearing. He informed me that he has drafted legislation to establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission modeled after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission established in 2006.  Since its establishment, four individuals, who exhausted their appeals, were exonerated.  As reported by journalist Beth Schwartzapfel “… the Innocence Inquiry Commission, which sidesteps the usual legal channels to look at the actual facts of whether someone might have been wrongfully convicted, is the first, and, to date, only program of its kind” (http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley). Four individuals have been exonerated who otherwise would still be sitting in prison. Here is a link to the website http://www.innocencecommission-nc.gov/

This legislation by Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders should be supported when introduced.  The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has stated in an email dated Nov. 1, 2012 that he does not see a need for an Innocence Project in Alabama. Here is part of the email exchange I had with him regarding this, his comments have not been altered and since he is a public figure responding to an email about a public bill, I am including it:

“Actually they do have the power to declare some one innocent. The Governor also still has the power to grant innocence and clemency. Between appeals courts, pardon & parole board and the power of the Governor to grant pardons or clemency, I just don’t see why we need yet a fourth group to correct wrongful incarceration. We have so many different avenues to have a wrongful conviction challenged that it would seem to be duplication to create yet another board or commission.

Respectfully,

 

Cam Ward

State Senator

PO Box 1749

Alabaster, Al. 35007

www.camward.com
On Nov 1, 2012, at 12:32 PM, Artemesia Stanberry <artemesia@freerodneystanberry.com> wrote:

With all due respect, sir, they do not have the power to establish an Innocence   Commission, do they? In fact, as I recall, the Alabama Legislature took the power of granting pardons and clemency from the Governor and put it solely in the hands of the Board of Pardons and Parole, who won’t, by the way, grant parole to people who continue to maintain their innocence, which is an unenviable position to be in- if you’re innocent, you have to lie to say you’re guilty and say you are remorseful, just for a chance at freedom. Many innocent people won’t do this, as a legislator who cares about sentencing reform and prison issues, this should, perhaps, be a concern.  Can the parole and pardons board at least be separated by statute? If the parole board isn’t concerned with innocence and the people on the parole board are also on the pardon’s board, doesn’t this pose some degree of conflict? 

 

The North Carolina Legislature set up an Innocence Commission, legislators, as you know, can do this. Or an am wrong? Can the Alabama State Legislative body, assuming there was interest, not establish an Innocence Commission without permission from the Board of Pardons and Parole?

 

Peace,

 

Artemesia

_____________________

Please contact Alabama State Senator Cam Ward, chair of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee, to request his support for the legislation Senator Sanders will introduce.  The Alabama State Legislative Body does not meet again until January 14th, 2014, but it is important for his bill to have momentum before and after it is introduced. Also, please, if you are in Alabama and/or have friends and relatives in Alabama, contact your legislator to ask that they support this legislation when introduced.  If you do not know who your representative is, please use this link to find out http://www.legislature.state.al.us/.  Massive public interest and attention before and after the legislation is introduced may give it the traction needed to get passed by the Alabama State Legislative body making Alabama the second state in the nation to have an Innocence Inquiry Commission.

2)      Rodney K. Stanberry’s case should be among the first considered in the event that the next Alabama Legislative session sees the creation of an Innocence Inquiry Commission. An editorial in a periodical in Mobile, Alabama called for an Innocence Project in Alabama. It included Rodney’s case  deserving of consideration to be reviewed. http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5978 -2013).

We must engage in public action in the form of letter writing campaigns, telephone calls to members of the legislator, the media and public rallies to put Rodney’s case on the agenda to be considered. The road to Rodney’s exoneration continues and whether he has 3 and a half years or one day left in his prison sentence, it is important that his case of actual innocence be heard by a state sanctioned Innocence Inquiry Commission that has the ability to issue subpoenas, access police files, search evidence rooms, and order DNA testing, all without asking a judge, if it is modeled after the one in North Carolina (http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley ). A public personality and social justice advocate, Dr. Boyce Watkins, is willing to help mobilize and promote a rally on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol on behalf of Rodney’s quest for freedom and exoneration. We could do this in support of both Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders’ legislation and Rodney’s case being among the first to be considered.

 

3) Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich

A) Rodney’s appeals have been exhausted, he will not have another parole hearing, and the Mobile District Attorney’s Office said in a television report (http://www.wkrg.com/story/23137189/questions-linger-about-guilt-of-innocence-of-rodney-stanberry) and news article (http://blog.al.com/live/2013/08/convicted_of_crime_he_insists.html) that Rodney’s claim of innocence has no merit.  She can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or via email at ashleyrich@mobileda.org to discuss Rodney’s case.

Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich should reveal any files she has regarding prosecutor Buzz Jordan’s trip to Rikers Island Prison to visit Rene Whitecloud, the person the State said was the shooter. Jordan said he was on vacation, so no notes were taken. (http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/).  Yes, Buzz Jordan travelled to a prison in New York, interviewed Rene Whitecloud, but did not disclose the contents of that interview because he said he did not take notes because he was on vacation.  The previous District Attorney, John Tyson, Jr., however, said that Jordan went to New York to find out more about the case and that he took extensive notes. Jordan said under oath at Rodney’s Rule 32 hearing that he was on vacation.  District Attorney Ashley Rich, who said in this interview during her campaign, that she would not tolerate a prosecutor withholding exculpatory evidence.  If a prosecutor is investigating a case and he has a statement exonerating the accused, he is responsible for sharing that statement with the attorney of the accused.  If Whitecloud further corroborated Moore’s confession, and Jordan withheld it, this should be grounds for DA Ashley Rich to reopen Rodney’s case.  In 1993, after hearing Moore’s confession, he said it was all a pack of lies, that he never believed Moore and never will believe Moore. If after interviewing Whitecloud in prison in New York if he listened to Whitecloud further exonerate Rodney as he did in this statement, did he also render it a pack of lies and opted not to share it? This is serious and should be addressed by someone who was so adamant about upholding the integrity of every conviction in her campaign to be district attorney.

B)  Rodney was the only person put on trial for the shooting of the victim. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office should explain why prosecutor Jordan told the jury and the media that Whitecloud would be brought back to Mobile to be tried, when, in actuality, this never happened.  Yet, it was included in a victory for John Tyson, Jr.’s murder team (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/mobileregister.256104348.pdf ). Why not put the person the state said was the shooter on trial in Mobile?  Jordan said during Rodney’s Rule 32 hearing that he thought Whitecloud had been convicted of murder in New York and that the prisons are tougher there. Is this a pack of lies or was it Jordan not wanting to bring Whitecloud to Mobile to again confirm that Rodney was actually innocent. Please review Jordan’s testimony at Rodney’s Rule 32 Post Conviction hearing (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/20100914155013.256151941.pdf ). Rodney’s attorney gets key responses from Jordan (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/exculpatory_evidence).

C) Lost Evidence.  During Rodney’s trial, a member of the Prichard Police force responsible for investigating a crime scene and collecting evidence said that when he arrived at the victim’s house 2 days later, he did not discover any usable fingerprints and while took a photo of a mask and gloves the person confessed said he and the shooter had, he claims that he did not collect the items.  Again, he said he took pictures of it, but says he did not collect the items.  The victim’s husband testified that he took photos of them AND collected the items.  According to a forensics report from the Alabama Department of Forensics, a bag containing lose hairs were among the items in their possession. Where would this come from if the mask weren’t collected? The Mobile District Attorney’s Office should investigate what happened to the mask and gloves, what were the results of the loose hairs found, and get the items tested to see if they match Rodney or Rene, or, if indeed, it came from the actual shooter (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away).

4) The Mobile District Attorney’s Office should be asked if they believe Moore’s confession is “a pack of lies” or if they simply support the judge’s ruling in allowing Jordan to get the confession suppressed the day of Rodney’s trial.  In other words, do they have no quarrels about the truth of his confession, but support Jordan’s efforts to get the confession suppressed.

5) “Photo Line-Up” Victim Eyewitness identification is important, as well as procedures of obtain the identification.  The Mobile District Attorney’s Office needs to address statements made by people in the hospital room with the victim, including a Prichard Police office, as she was recovering from a coma who stated that she doesn’t know who perpetrated the horrible crime against her.  Prichard Police detective Fletcher, after hearing this, then placed photos, provided by Rodney in an effort to help them detain the people from New York, asked if there was anyone in the photos who could have been at her house and asked her to point a finger at the person she recognized.  Rodney was in the photos and Rodney was frequently at the victim’s house as the husband was his good friend.  This is how the initial identification of Rodney came about- as someone who could have been at her house, as he was often at her house.

6)  Murder for Hire- The District Attorney’s Office should investigate the extent to how an unproven murder for hire plot tainted eyewitness testimony, thus further depriving Rodney of a fair trial. To what extent did the prosecutor lead witnesses and family members to believe this? Moore’s testimony demonstrates that this was a burglary gone very, very badly. The prosecutor, however, had something else in mind, and his theory became more important than the truth.  In this interview with Rodney in 1992 (before he is arrested), Rodney says to the prosecutor towards the end of the interview that it is sounding like you are suspecting me of committing this horrible crime when you know for a fact that I was here at work.  (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/1-31Rodney_interview1992_ppa1.289162359.pdf and see page 49 http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/32-52Rodney_interview1992_ppa1.289162441.pdf

 

Conclusion

 

Here are two important blogs that I encourage you to read- “Can a Person be Two Places at Once” and Gun Control: What Happened When a Gun Enthusiast Tried to Stop the Sale of Weapons.”  Rodney was at work when these crimes occurred, he had the same weapons he was accused of trying to steal, and he tried to prevent weapons from being sold to his friends from New York for fear they would be taken to New York to be used for criminal means.  Rodney K. Stanberry was the law abiding individual who tried to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands and when learning about the shooting went to the police to try to help him apprehend the culprits.  Rodney remained at the same job from 1992-1997, the crimes occurred in 1992, his trial in 1995 and he began his prison sentence in 1997.  He is actually innocent, but remains in prison for these crimes that he did not commit.  We need collective action to get his case heard once the Alabama State Legislature passes a bill establishing an Innocence Inquiry Commission and the Mobile District Attorney’s Office need to do allow for an independent investigation of Rodney’s case.  Rodney should not have to spend the next 3 and a half years in prison.  This isn’t justice, this is punishing the innocent for actually being innocent.  We need you. There is no I in team, but there are two in activists.  You are that “I”. Let’s do this.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

 

 

 

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Don’t Stop Believing In Justice? The Case of Rodney K. Stanberry

August 20, 2013

Don’t Stop Believing In Justice?  The Case of Rodney K. Stanberry

I recently had a conversation with someone I knew while we were in a store.  We briefly got caught up on life.  She informed me that while she had long wanted to go to law school, that she is no longer sure that that is the direction she wants to go.  She said the Trayvon Martin shooting and the George Zimmerman trial had soured her on the system of justice.  Normally, I would have jumped in and said that you can’t allow one case to deter you from believing in the system and then continued with my spiel that the system responds to demands, as such, the worst you can do is to give up. But I didn’t say those things this time. Instead, I said aloud what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. “What Happens if I stopped believing in our system of justice?”  Understand, I am not naïve about how justice is often administered and about how politics often trump common sense and the pursuit of justice. Nevertheless, I so believe in the system, so much so that it sometimes hurts: it breaks my heart.

When I said “What Happens if I stopped believing in our system of justice,” tears formed in my eyes.  It’s like telling a child that there is no Santa Claus or tooth fairy, not to equate justice with the aforementioned characters.  I believe that activism can make a difference. But after more than 16 years of working on my cousin’s, Rodney K. Stanberry, case, and facing the realization that on Wednesday, August 28th that he may be denied parole, the question has crept into my mind. You see, Rodney is an innocent man who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit.  His being granted parole is not a given, in part, because he is an innocent man (see and sign this petition).  This reality is very difficult to accept. It may be very difficult to hang on to the belief that action and agitation in the pursuit of justice can actually do that, produce justice, if he is not granted parole.  Again, I’m not naïve, I dealt with the agony of defeat in this blog (“The Pursuit of Justice and the Agony of Defeat“)…   One of my friends who studied Ghandi told me about a book about Ghandi entitled Ghandi: Prisoner of Hope by Judith Brown. I liked that title because it reflects how I view and tackle my role as an advocate for my cousin and it reflects my beliefs that the system reacts when there are demands placed on it.  We have to believe this, I say, otherwise, what purpose is there in attempting to battle against any inequality or injustice perpetuated by the system. After hearing the term “prisoner of hope” years ago, I wrote it on my bulletin board to see each day, and I began saying that I am a prisoner of hope, through the good, the bad and the ugly, I can’t help but to hope the system would correct a wrong.

Injustice Anywhere, is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

As mentioned, on August 28th, Rodney K. Stanberry will have his third parole hearing. As I mention in the introduction to this petition, he has had everything parole boards look for, a family plan, employment, family support, a good prison record, no criminal history prior to being convicted, programs completed while in prison, and so on.  But he hasn’t admitted to being guilty to crimes he did not commit.  He is seen as not being rehabilitated by the system because he won’t accept responsibility for a crime he did not commit and he won’t express personal remorse.  Had Rodney’s words had been heeded, the crimes may not have occurred, and while he is very sorry about what happened to the victim, someone he had known, he can’t express remorse for crimes he did not commit (see this blog on Gun Control and Rodney Stanberry).

Rodney’s parole hearing is on the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  This was an incredible event with people from all walks of life, from all colors of the rainbow speaking truth to power, people expressing the belief that equality, fairness, justice, and the United States Constitution apply to all, not some.  Also written 50 years ago, a few months before the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote letter from a Birmingham City Jail.  He addressed ministers who accused him to stirring up people, he was accused of being an outside agitator, he was asked why did he come to Birmingham.  You have to read his speech to get the full impact.  But I am going to take a moment to quote just one line that most remember from this speech.*  I am not one who likes to remember or encourage the memory of just one line of his speeches given my personal agitation that the only line that people cite without understanding or reading the full speech and its meaning of the “I Have a Dream” speech is  the line about his 4 little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  I am going to quote just the “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice”  line from the Letter from a Birmingham Jail speech because it is a line that I wish people- read prosecutors/District Attorneys, judges, legislators and, yes, parole board members, would internalize.  There is no justice in keeping an innocent person in prison. And when we practice injustice whether the wrongfully convicted inmate is in a prison in Alabama or in solitary confinement in Texas, as Anthony Graves was in before he was exonerated (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/22/from_death_row_to_exoneration_fmr), this injustice is a threat to justice for everyone.  Rodney was a hardworking young man, who also enjoyed life. He was working when (yes, actually at the time) these crimes took place, but he remains in prison, he is on year 17.

What if Rodney K. Stanberry isn’t granted parole?

Of course I will continue to fight for his freedom and exoneration.  Not believing in the system, at least for me, doesn’t translate to tuning out.  District Attorneys, including the ones who have jurisdiction over Rodney’s case, John M. Tyson, Jr. (former) and Ashley Rich (current) of the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, do not respond to moralsuasion (ie moral persuasion), so I will have to spend the next 16 years of my life pursuing a law degree and fighting within the system.  What happened to get the conviction of Rodney K. Stanberry should never be sanctioned anywhere and reforms must be in place to avoid these types of convictions from happening.

I will not give up on his case, even if I give up believing in our system of justice. In these United States, a countless number of named and unnamed people fought against the inhuman and brutal system of slavery, the false promise and aftermath of the Reconstruction era, the Jim Crow system with its separate water fountains, burial grounds, bus seats that attempted to reinforce inferiority by virtual of birth, the modern day Civil Rights era where the children, college students, and adults said enough is enough, you will recognize our humanity, to the Dream Defenders occupying the state capitol of Florida standing up for what they believe in. So if the day ever comes that I do stop believing as a result of just one heartbreak too many, it does not mean that I would not keep fighting to correct a wrong, I would not stop fighting against an injustice, this injustice against Rodney K. Stanberry, and this injustice against the system of justice itself. Justice is not served when the wrong person is convicted. We have to keep up the fight against injustice because, after all, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and I want to live in a place where there is justice everywhere.

Peace,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

Click here for the latest video about Rodney K. Stanberry

You can call Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich to ask that she reopens Rodney’s case (251) 574-5000 or (251) 574-8400. You can reach her via email at ashleyrich@mobileda.org

You can also sign this petition that will be delivered to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles on August 28th, 2013.

*”Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.  Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country. “  Letter from Birmingham City Jail, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, HarperCollins, 1986,  p. 290.

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Can A Person Be Two Places at Once: The Wrongful Conviction of Rodney K. Stanberry

For more updates, please join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/freerodneykstanberry/

______________________

Because this prosecutor let a guilty man go free, an innocent man remains in prison.

 

July 25, 2013

 

Can a Person Be Two Places at Once? The Wrongful Conviction of Rodney K. Stanberry

 

Rodney K. Stanberry is in his 17th year in prison for crimes he did not commit. He was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995, and began his prison sentence in 1997. He was convicted of attempted murder, burglary, and robbery. For the latest investigative work on Rodney’s case, please read this: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

 

Rodney was convicted even as there was evidence that he was at work when the crimes occurred. He was convicted even though there was no physical evidence that placed him at the scene of the crime. He became a suspect after he went to the police a day after the crimes occurred, taking a rare day off of work, because he was perceived as being too helpful during his effort to help police apprehend the culprits. Rodney worked at the same company since 1989, earning $300.00 a week, which wasn’t bad for a young man in his 20s and he owned the same guns he is accused of entering the victim’s home to steal. Read more here about the weapons. He remained at the same job during the trial and until 1997 when he began his prison sentence (1989-1997!). He was a model employee, as stated by his supervisor.

 

On the day the crime took place

 

Rodney worked at BFi Waste Management. He began his employment at the company in 1989, rarely taking a vacation day. On Monday, March 2, 1992, Rodney clocked in at work at approximately 3am. His work consisted of removing waste from industrial sites via those large vehicles with the forklift feature.

 

When and what time did the crimes occur?

 

March 2, 1992

 

The State’s witnesses report various times ranging from 8:30am–9:30am Monday, March 2nd; the victim’s sister testified that she called the victim at 9am and at approximately 9:13, her sister informed her that someone was at the door. This was based on a statement she gave to the police after she was asked about it during the trial: (trial transcript R-691- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf)

 

Terrell Moore, the person who confessed to being one of two people who was at the victim’s home when she was shot said he and the shooter, he identified as Angel “Wish” Melendez, knocked at the front door of the victim’s home that morning: http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/20100914155256.256155350.pdf. The purpose was to take weapons that Rodney tried to prevent them from getting by telling the victim’s husband to not sell them any weapons, fearing that they’d take them back to New York, which could result in some innocent bystander getting shot.

 

As Rodney’s co-workers, supervisors, and a City of Mobile employee are testifying and clearly demonstrating that Rodney’s location was accounted for during the time frame of when these crimes are said to have occurred, Assistant District Attorney Buzz Jordan, would then say, ok, but where was he at 8am, thus revising the state’s timeframe on the spot, this is very convenient as it becomes even more evident that Rodney could not have been at the victim’s home. The conviction matters more than the truth, in some cases. It became also convenient for the prosecutor to perpetuate an unproven murder for hire scheme thus planting in the jury’s mind that even if he was not at the home, he must have been involved somehow, so convict him.

 

What Was Rodney Doing as his Occupation When the Crimes Occurred?

 

Rodney K. Stanberry drove a large commercial front-loader, one of those giant trucks with a fork to pick up dumpsters. (as recounted in the article written by Beth Schwartzapfel that ran in the Boston Review ). He began his workday at approximately 3am and spoke with his supervisor at approximately 6/6:30 am. His last stop (pick-up) was Degussa Chemical Plant at approximately 8:40; he (Rodney) then radioed a BFI dispatcher that his route was completed and that he needed to talk to a mechanic because he had a flat tire. He was advised to return to BFI headquarters on Hall’s Mill Road, which he did. Note, his route was on the south end of Mobile County, from Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre to Hamilton Boulevard, the victim’s home in Prichard was on the North side of Mobile, approximately 17 miles away.

 

At 8:55, the dispatcher at BFI enters Rodney’s arrival to BFI’s headquarters and the nature of the mechanical problem; his time card stamped at 9am, which had to be done before repairs could be made on his work truck.

 

9:05-9:32, Rodney’s vehicle is being repaired. He is spotted in the break room; his co-workers testify that both he and his personal vehicle are on the grounds of BFI during this entire time. (trial testimony from co-workers begin on page 730 (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf). And here are two interviews featuring Rodney’s supervisor discussing the case: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78 and http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=119

 

After the repairs were completed, the dispatcher logged Rodney out at approximately 9:50 and he then had to travel to the northern part of the county to dump the contents of his truck. It was approximately 32 miles to Chestang, Alabama, where the landfill was located. With the load of his truck, it would take an hour to an hour and ten minutes to arrive. An employee for the City of Mobile’s landfill weighed Rodney’s truck and stamped his time sheet- the timestamp is 10:40am (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Stanberry_time_card.86161545.pdf- Note, this is a City of Mobile timestamp, so if the DA’s Office believes Rodney’s co-workers were involved in some grand conspiracy to cover for Rodney’s whereabouts, they would have to believe that they City of Mobile was complicit in it).

 

Rodney returns to BFI’s headquarters and ends his shift at 11:55am.

 

Rodney’s truck was loaded, weighing 64,000 pounds, indicating that he was not sitting idle during the morning in question, as would have been the case if he had the time to pull his work vehicle alongside the road, get his personal vehicle, pick up his alleged accomplice, drive to the Finley home, ransack the home and shoot the victim, drop the shooter off, get his vehicle back to his job, and then somehow get back to his work truck. It is impossible, which is why Rodney said during the trial that the prosecutors must think this is some JFK Magic bullet conspiracy. Sadly, while Rodney was pointing out the absurdity of the State’s argument in his trial testimony, the state slyly planted in the jury’s head that maybe his whereabouts can be accounted for at 9am, but what about 8am. Again, their witness, the victim’s sister, told police well before Rodney’s trial that she was on the phone with her sister at 9am and the call ended at approximately 9:13. Moore confessed that he snatched the phone cord out of the wall, again, consistent with the victim’s sister’s account.

 

When Did the Police Arrived at the Victim’s House?

 

11:20am Captain Frank Dees of the Prichard Police Department said he and several police officers, including Sgt. Eddie Ragland, who was responsible for fingerprinting and collecting evidence, were at the victim’s home.

 

This time is important because the Assistant District Attorney (Martha Tierney) in opposing Rodney’s Post Conviction trial request said that Rodney was 6 minutes from the victim’s house. To get to the landfill from BFI, Rodney would have to get on the Interstate and the victim’s home in Prichard, Alabama was off the Interstate. But, as has been established, Rodney would have been in his work truck, not in his personal vehicle. The victim stated that she saw Rodney’s Bronco in her driveway. The State’s witnesses said they saw Rodney’s Bronco*. However, one of Rodney’s co-workers testified that he parked his vehicle beside Rodney’s as always and saw Rodney’s vehicle at 10am when he walked outside for a break (begins on page 731- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf). Thus, again, Rodney could not have departed with his 64,000 pound truck, parked it some place, and then get a cab or whatever he would have had to do to return to work for his personal vehicle. He would not have had time to do all of this and still get his time-card stamped by the City of Mobile at 10:40. [*There were two cars in the medium near the victim’s home and one was a brown vehicle owned by a mechanic working on a car when the crimes took place. Both the mechanic and the owner of the car he was working on testified to this and both identified the person who confessed and the person who confessed said he saw them.(begins at pg 585 for Dortch http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf and pg 713 for Mauldin, the mechanic: http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf - ]

 

About the Crime Scene

 

Prichard Police Captain Dees testified that he arrived at the victim’s home at 11:20 am, the same time the paramedics arrived, he said. Sgt. Eddie Ragland testified under oath that he did not arrive at the victim’s house until two days later (Wednesday) and that he was not able to gather any fingerprints or collect any evidence.

 

Captain Dees, along with neighbors, reported that the living room furniture was overturned. A neighbor reported that this is how the victim generally did her cleaning. Captain Dees also reported that he located the victim in a back bedroom:

“Yes, when I went in the living room, the furniture was turned    upside down and I went to the back bedroom where I saw the lady laying, in the back room on the floor by the bed with not a pillow but some pants under her head. ”

The above quote is from Captain Dees’ testimony. Page 131: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/F_Dees.255145443.pdf

 

Terrell Moore, the person who confessed, said he turned over the furniture and while the victim was originally in the living room, the shooter, who he identified as Angel “Wish” Melendez, took the victim to a back room where he shot her. This is another important point because during Rodney’s Rule 32 (Post Conviction) hearing, Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney questions Private Investigator Ryan Russell, who located Moore in 1992 and interviewed him on tape. Russell says during the 2001 Rule 32 hearing that he hadn’t read Moore’s confession made before then prosecutor Buzz Jordan in a while, but believes he recalls Moore stating that the victim was shot in the bedroom. Here is the exchange:

 

Martha Tierney: And let me ask you, sir. Did you ever visit the scene of the crime?

 

Ryan Russell: Yes, ma’am.

 

Tierney: Okay, then you must certainly have been aware that she was not shot in the bedroom, she was shot in the living room…. And your witness Moore said she was shot in the bedroom, did that not cause you some pause? ….. If I represent to you that this recorded statement in Mr. Clark’s office is the statement Terrell Moore gave wherein he said that the shooting occurred in the back bedroom, that certainly would be inconsistent then with all the forensics and I.D. people who identified the place of the crime being in the middle of the house in the living room, right?

 

Russell: Yes ma’am, but in my— (he gets cut off by Tierney)

 

Tierney- All right. That is all—

 

Russell: statement, I know what he told me.

 

Tierney: Thank you, sir.

 

So, Tierney was incorrect about where the shooting occurred and according to Eddie Ragland, the officer responsible for gathering forensics, no evidence was taken from the house short of photos! http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/E_Ragland.255145555.pdf Is the District Attorney’s Office saying that they had forensics? If so, maybe they can come forward about any evidence that was collected but “lost” before Rodney’s trial. So let’s put her question to Russell back to her. Ms. Tierney, if you stated that forensics say the shooting occurred in the living room and Captain Dees who was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene says that he found the victim in a bedroom, surrounded by blood, does that not give you pause!!!!!? It should as it means Moore was correct, just as he described the home as only someone who was there would, he stated in which room the victim was shot, validated by Prichard Police Captain Frank Dees.

 

One final point. There were two people at the victim’s house, the person who confessed and the shooter. Terrell Moore, the person who confessed, said that it was only he and Angel “Wish” Melendez at the house. Rodney had nothing to do with these crimes and that he got in contact with Melendez when he was paid $150.00 to drive them around while they were here as Rodney was not going to take off work. Donnard “Taco” Jones introduced Moore to Wish and Rene Whitecloud, as he also testified. See this link- http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away By perpetuating a murder for hire scheme orchestrated by the victim’s husband, it is not convenient for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to believe Moore’s testimony. Keep in mind, they (the Mobile District Attorney’s Office) never tried anyone except for Rodney and even the person they claimed was the shooter, Rene Whitecloud, was never tried, even though the Prosecutor Buzz Jordan/the Mobile District Attorney’s Office told the jury and the media that he would. They got a wrongful conviction and they were going to move on, end of story. So when Moore was in the county lock-up and located by Rodney’s attorney during Rodney’s Rule 32 hearing in 2001, he was going to testify, essentially restating his confession. In sum:

 

Martha Tierney to Terrell Moore- You Talk, You Get Life.

 

Buzz Jordan on Terrell Moore- I Never Believed He Was Involved with these crimes and never will believe it.

 

Terrell Moore on Terrell Moore- I was involved, I was at the house, I saw who shot Ms. Finley, and it was Angel Wish Melendez- we were the only two at the house, Rodney had nothing to do with this.

 

It is a sad day when the person who commits a crime is more truthful than the people paid by taxpayers to uphold the law.

 

(Again, read Moore’s confession found here http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_confession-_testimonial_immunity_agreement and this investigative piece: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley)

 

Conclusion

 

I have come to the conclusion that an additional travesty of a wrongful conviction is that prosecutors within the same office sanction it; they do everything necessary to uphold that wrongful conviction. This is neither pro-victim nor pro-justice. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, prosecutors are necessary and needed. The vast majority of times, they do the right thing. But during those times when a wrongful conviction has occurred, rather than acknowledging a wrong, they double-down, thus further perpetuating an injustice. Why would a prosecutor want to put his/her reputation on the line to defend practices that lead to a wrongful conviction? Perhaps because there is no punishment in it, heck, you might just get promoted by the next DA.

 

Peace,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

 

artemesia@freerodneystanberry.com

 

PS What Can You Do- please click on: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/what_can_you_do-road_to_parole_hearing

 

Please call District Attorney Ashley Rich to request that he works to obtain parole for Rodney K. Stanberry: (251) 574-8400

 

Because this prosecutor let a guilty man go, an innocent man remains in prison. Because this prosecutor refused to acknowledge who shot Ms. Finley because he died before Rodney’s trial, an innocent man remains in prison. Because this prosecutor did not even attempt to prosecute the person the State claims was the actual shooter (Rene Whitecloud), an innocent man remains in prison, and a victim never truly received actual justice. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted. Please read Time Served or Justice Denied, by Bill Riales.

 

Rodney K. Stanberry has an upcoming parole hearing, because he refuses to admit guilt for crimes he did not commit, his parole likely will be denied again. Where is the justice? Please consider signing and sharing this petition in support of his parole.

 

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Channeling Justice- Getting Parole for Rodney K. Stanberry

July 14, 2013
Channeling Justice- Getting Parole for Rodney K. Stanberry

Without getting in specific cases outside of Rodney’s, sometimes the criminal justice system disappoints us.  Even so, I remain optimistic, as Rodney said to a radio host in response to his continued belief in the system, perhaps it is a character defect (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78 ).
Rodney K. Stanberry was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995 and began serving what amounts to a 20 year prison sentence in 1997. He was convicted even as another individual confessed 3 years BEFORE his trial. He was convicted because the state (prosecutor) ignored the evidence of innocence in favor of a theory.  He was convicted solely based on eyewitness misidentification.  The Alabama and Mobile Bar Association should explore the tactics used by the prosecutor to get this conviction.
Rodney will soon have his third parole hearing.  I am more certain than ever that like a football team in the Super Bowl that we must leave everything on the field.  There can be no “We should have done this or that.” We have a limited time to continue to do what must be done to get some justice for Rodney, to obtain his freedom THIS YEAR, possibly as soon as next month. This would, of course, be a limited freedom as exoneration is complete freedom, although it does not make up for the more than two decades (from the time the crimes took place and Rodney’s efforts to help the police made him a suspect) of the nightmare that he has and continues to experience.
I’ve devoted 16+years of my life to my cousin. Since  2009, I made even more career and personal sacrifices with his 2013 hearing in mind, it has been and is a daily grind, but there are so many results that we can point to. A lot of groundwork has been laid in anticipation of his parole hearing. Nevertheless, we see time and time again that no matter the publicity, no matter the activism, no matter the level of support, that the criminal justice system does not always work in the way that we believe it should.  It hurts. It is disappointing. But no matter how we may sometimes feel about the system, we cannot give up. We are in the 4th quarter, if Rodney is granted parole, it is a step towards justice. If he is denied parole, he has to remain in prison until 2017, a full 20 years in prison, a full 25 years dealing with this nightmare. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted.
The State will do all that they can to ensure that he is not granted parole; Mobile County District Attorney Ashley  Rich will likely send one of her attorneys to the hearing; but they must know that you know about Rodney’s case and that you are watching.  Innocence should matter.
Peace,
Artemesia Stanberry
PS What Can you do?
Below is the contact information for the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. You can write in support of Rodney. Please be respectful. Read about Rodney’s case and, in this
Boston Review article by Beth Schwartzapfel, you will hear the voices of  various parties involved in Rodney’s case (Who shot Valerie Finley)
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles
CENTRAL  OFFICE 

301 South Ripley Street
PO Box 302405
Montgomery, Al 36130-2405
Telephone:  (334) 353-7771, 353-8067
FAX:  (334) 242-1809
TDD:  (334)242-0110
Email: questions4pardonsandparoles@alabpp.gov
Below is the contact information for District Attorney Ashley Rich. You can ask if she plans to work to block Rodney’s chances at parole.
Ashley Rich • Mobile County District Attorney • P.O. Box 2841 • Mobile, AL 36652 •
(251) 574-8400 and ashleyrich@mobileda.org
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#FreeDad- To the Fathers Who Are Wrongfully Convicted

Rodney and Trevon

(Photo of Rodney and his now teenage son included in this article: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley)

#FreeDad- To the Fathers Who Are Wrongfully Convicted

I wrote most of  this on Father’s Day but did not put it in a blog.  So, here it is in blog form.

Among the valuable lessons that a father can teach a son is that of integrity, strength, and perseverance in the face of adversity. Michael Morton, who spent 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit, never gave up on these three lessons, even after his own son changed his name on his 18th birthday, believing what the prosecutors had said about his father. Morton had the strength to carry on, to not give up, to show his son that even in the face of a flawed judicial system, that he would not be and was not a flawed man. Morton was exonerated and he and his son reunited. Morton’s mother helped to sustain him during these very difficult times.

Rodney K. Stanberry is living and expressing these same values. He has a son who is now a teenager, born just before Rodney began his years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Rodney showed integrity when he discovered what had happened and defied the no-snitch rule and went to the police; he showed strength when faced with a conviction and prison time to give himself up to face his legal fate; he also showed strength in refusing to say he was guilty for crimes he did not commit, even if he could possibly have received less prison time and/or could have been out of prison by now; and he showed perseverance in the face of adversity for continuing to believe that he will receive justice. Dr. Wilmer Leon said to Rodney during this interview http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78 that he (Rodney) in spite of this nightmare continues to believe in the system. Rodney’s response was yes, perhaps it is a character flaw. It most certainly is not a character flaw, rather; he is being a father, a son, a brother, a friend, a nephew, and, yes, a cousin, who knows he was raised to be a decent human being and who knows that in spite of a flawed judicial system that he can’t change who he is. Rodney could have given up a long time ago, he could have a long time ago played the game that prosecutors and the parole board want the innocent to play (or to put it in the words of the New York Times, the Innocent Prisoner’s Dilemma), he could have been a broken man by now. But he has support, because he has his integrity, his strength, and perseverance and that is a lesson not only for his teenage son, but for all of us.

Let’s hope this is the last Father’s Day that Rodney has to spend in prison. Let’s hope he will soon be a free man. But hope doesn’t do it alone, we need you. Please read this link and act: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/what_can_you_do-road_to_parole_hearing_in_july_2013 . Rodney’s father is 79 years old.  He deserves to see his son as a free and exonerated man. To the fathers who are wrongfully convicted who find it particularly difficult to get through a Father’s Day, stay strong. Your children will see and recognize that strength and learn from it.  As Dr. King is quoted as saying, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. We have to believe this.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

www.freerodneystanberry.com

Innocent and the Parole Board

WKRG-TV Report- Features Prosecutor, the Person Who Confessed and Rodney K. Stanberry

Here’s the confession by another individual made 3 times before Rodney’s trial, AND made in front of the prosecutor, who got the confession suppressed. At some point, the truth should matter. Rodney should be released and exonerated, but certainly he should be granted parole.

Please save this webpage as in the days to come, there will be a petition to the parole board for you to sign: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/what_can_you_do-road_to_parole_hearing_in_july_2013

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