Rodney K. Stanberry- Innocent and Incarcerate, Year 19

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Rodney K. Stanberry- Innocent and Incarcerate, Year 19.

(see also Rodney K. Stanberry Year 18

)

“”I’ve been in prison for 20 years for a crime I didn’t commit,” said Rosario, who had lost multiple appeals. “My family didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve this, and nor did the family of the victim.”” http://bigstory.ap.org/article/cbeb663a3bab40e884e83ad2cd5d6a2e/nyc-killing-florida-alibi-man-may-go-free-after-20-years

Imagine spending 20 years in prison for a crime you did not commit. Imagine spending 20 years in prison for a crime you did not commit, when you have witnesses placing you a thousand miles away from where the crime was committed. This is apparently what happened to 40 year old Richard Rosario.  He was 20 when he was convicted in 1996 and he is 40 now.  Imagine spending 20 years of your life in prison, away from your children who were born just before your incarceration. Rosario was released this week.  “”A modicum of justice has occurred today,” said one of his lawyers, Glenn Garber of the Exoneration Initiatve. But “he’s not been fully vindicated, and we hope he will be soon.””

This is a reality for far too many individuals in the United States of America. I have provided statistics in other blogs on this, but for this blog, I want you to take note of what Mr. Rosario said, “ I didn’t deserve this, and nor did the family of the victim.” When prosecutors prosecute an innocent person, they leave the victim and victim’s family to believe that justice has been served. For each of the actual innocent people who have been released from prison, there is a victim/victim’s family left without closure and left to deal with open wounds.  Prosecutors can do the right thing at any point during a defendant’s case, but, too often, they go for the easy conviction.  No one wins when innocent men and women are incarcerated, except for prosecutors who continue to advance their careers based on their conviction rates.

Rodney K. Stanberry- Year 19

On March 24th, 2016, Rodney K. Stanberry will conclude 19 full years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  He will begin his last year of incarceration on March 25th, 2016.  Rodney had proof that he was at work when the crimes for which he is accused of committing took place. He has work documents as well as co-workers placing him at work.  The prosecutor interviewed Rodney at his place of employment (without reading him his Miranda Rights, Rodney was cooperative because he wanted to be helpful, he had no idea that he was a suspect.  While at his place of employment, the prosecutor- Joe Carl Buzz Jordan, likely saw that Rodney was at work, but what does the truth matter when one is operating under a theory.  I outline the day the crimes took place in this blog entitled “Can One Person Be Two Places at Once” . In addition, an individual who was actually present when the crime took place confessed that it was on him and the actual shooter at the victim’s house.  Again, Buzz Jordan interviewed Moore, the person who confessed, approximately two years before Rodney’s trial and the interview took place in the law office of one of the most prominent attorneys in Mobile.  He told his client to tell PROSECUTOR Jordan the truth, which he did, exonerating Rodney, but Jordan didn’t believe him, even asking if he has been offered lunch meat in return for the confession. Understand that Moore and Rodney were not friends and that Moore was facing many years in prison if prosecuted. He had no incentive to lie and every incentive to be truthful.  He and his attorney believed that a prosecutor with the Mobile District Attorney’s Office was actually searching for the truth. As a result, Rodney ended up serving 19 years and counting for crimes Jordan had to know he could not have committed.) Rather than the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to pursue the truth, they relied on a theory that was unproven, “lost” evidence, and an overzealous prosecutor. It is truly shameful with the criminal is more honest than the prosecutor, absolutely shameful. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office, from John Tyson, Jr. to current District Attorney Ashley Rich, had more than 20 years to actually pursue justice in Rodney’s case, instead, at every point of his appeals and parole hearings, they have ensured that he would not achieve his freedom. They sanction dishonesty, as it is about the conviction with them, nothing but the conviction. How can someone claim to be pro-victim under these circumstances? The prosecutor in Rodney’s case, seen in the video above, has continued to convince the victim’s family that Rodney is guilty and the prosecutor has ensured that he provides assistance needed to be sure that he is never questioned (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/09/09/the-continued-struggle-to-free-an-innocent-man-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/  and http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2014/02/11/ruthless-we-should-never-have-to-describe-people-paid-and-elected-to-pursue-justice-as-such-but/)

This is not justice, this is injustice perpetuated by a flawed system and individuals who are blinded by the need to uphold a conviction over anything else. This is also not pro-victim.

Rodney K. Stanberry is a strong individual. He has endured these two decades of injustice with dignity because he knows he is innocent and he knows he has support.  Rodney was a hard-working, fun-loving, law-abiding human being who went to prison in 1997 to serve a 20 year sentence for crimes he did not commit. He is now a soon to be 47 year old man (he turns 47 in April) who is ready, willing, and able to work hard and to continue to live as a law abiding citizen, while we continue to fight for his exoneration.  Rodney did not deserve the nightmare that he has lived since first being accused of a crime that he did not commit in 1992 (the trial was in 1995 and he entered prison in March 1997), nor did his family and friends deserve the heartache and heartbreak of knowing that a loved one has been a victim of the convict at all costs mentality that too many prosecutors live by.  His son born shortly before his sentence began is a grown man, his mother died, and his father is now in his 80s.  This conviction has taken a toll on him, but the bigger toll is on our system of justice.  We need a system that the average person truly believes is fair and just. When we consistently see news headlines featuring individuals who have served 10, 20, and even 30 years in prison for crimes they did not commit, we gradually lose the belief that the system is fair and just for all. Rodney was once asked why he still believed in the system. After confirming his belief in the system, Rodney said that it is a character flaw on his part.  The character flaw isn’t with Rodney; rather, it is with the prosecutors/district attorneys who refuse to seek the truth.  The cure to this is for prosecutors to be held accountable by State Bar Associations, and for voters to say enough is enough and to vote prosecutors out of office who refuse to acknowledge that reforms are needed.  Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich acknowledged when she first sought the office that wrongful convictions should be addressed, but as cases have been overturned by prosecutors in her office, she has remained silent on this issue. And she is walking into another term, unopposed. One of my biggest regrets is that 19 years ago, when I first became an advocate for Rodney’s freedom and exoneration, is that I did not move back to Alabama to fight for him there. If that had happened, perhaps I would have been able to convince a strong candidate to run against DA Ashley Rich on the issue of wrongful convictions. Citizens around the country who are fed up with prosecutors who refuse to acknowledge AND seriously address wrongful convictions can vote in local elections, it happened in Chicago with regard to a prosecutor who did not adequately investigate a police shooting (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-chicago-idUSKCN0WI0I0) and it happened with a prosecutor associated In Williamson County, Texas, Jana Duty, a Republican, defeated Bradley and her Democratic general election challenger, the issue of Michael Morton’s case was front and center. 

By this time next year, Rodney will be out of prison. He will be a productive citizen.  He will not hold grudges.  I will never give up the battle to exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry.  It is about the truth, it is about justice, and Rodney deserves it, justice deserves it.

Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

Please read this investigative piece by investigative journalist Beth Schwartzapfel: Who Shot Valerie Finley? Why One Man’s Innocence Is So Hard to Prove

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An Innocence Inquiry Commission in Alabama?- A Step in the Right Direction

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February 27, 2016

Title: An Innocence Inquiry Commission in Alabama?- A Step in the Right Direction

On Thursday, February 18th, I was informed that an Alabama State Senator had introduced legislation that would establish an Innocence Commission in Alabama. I was immediately excited as this is something that I’d hoped for, advocated for, and dreamed about for so many years.   Sen. Brewbaker introduced a bill that would allow for people convicted of felonies would have an opportunity to have their cases heard by an innocence inquiry commission if there is factual evidence of innocence.

“According to Brewbaker, the purpose of the Innocence Commission is to grant a defendant a new trial or receive outright exoneration, if there, “is physical evidence that can prove actual innocence, not just reasonable doubt, but actual innocence.” Brewbaker said the commission, “would add a lot of integrity to the death penalty process for Alabama.” And hopes lawmakers will see the wisdom in “following the lead of states like Texas and establish an innocence commission.” http://www.alreporter.com/brewbaker-sponsors-historic-innocence-commission/

 

The bill was introduced with bipartisan support. Sen. Brewbaker referenced the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission  in the above quote.  Since it was established in 2006, 9 individuals have been released from prison, including Greg Taylor  who spent 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit and Joseph Sledge who spent nearly FORTY YEARS in prison . Just these two individuals (Taylor and Sledge) spent a combined 55+ years in prison.  They would likely still be in prison were it not for an opportunity provided by the state of North Carolina to get another shot to have their cases heard.  So, again, needless to say, I was very, very excited about Brewbaker’s bill. I forgot to adhere to that cautiously optimistic stance that I’ve developed over the years.  As my cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, is in his 18th year of a 20 year sentence, all I can think about was that he would finally be able to get his case heard again. (note, March 25th, 2016 will mark the beginning of Rodney’s 19th year in prison for crimes he did not commit).

On Wednesday, February 24th, I felt the pain of disappointment and heartache when I read an article entitled: “Change: Alabama’s Innocence Commission would now only review death row cases “. I once again learned the lesson of what it does to a person to have too much hope.  Peanuts character Lucy had once again pulled away the football that Charlie Brown finally thought he would be successful in kicking.  The Alabama State Legislative body pulled away a shot at justice for all inmates who are innocent and incarcerated for the purpose of political expediency.   I truly understand the need for death row inmates to be able to have their cases heard. A death sentence is extremely serious and it is literally a matter of life and death.  Alabamians Anthony Ray Hinton was just released from death row after 30 years and William Ziegler spent 13 years on death row before eventually being released from prison. Walter McMillan ,a case, like Anthony Ray Hinton’s, so disturbing that the entire judicial system in Alabama should be on trial, died not too long after his release from death row. Here is what Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative said about McMillan, who spent 6 years on death row, following a trial that lasted a day and a half. This quote was reflected his feelings as a judge was finally going to order McMillan innocent and that he would be released.

“ Walter was rightfully ecstatic, but I was confused by my simmering anger.  We were about to leave court for the last time, and I started thinking about how much pain and suffering had been inflicted on Walter and his family, the entire community. I thought about how if Judge Robert E. Lee Key hadn’t overridden the jury’s verdict of life imprisonment without parole and imposed the death penalty, which brought the case to our attention, Walter likely would have spent the rest of his life incarcerated and died in a prison cell.  I thought about how certain it was that hundreds, maybe thousands of other people were just as innocent as Walter but would never get the help they need. I knew this wasn’t the place or time to make a speech or complain, but I couldn’t stop myself from making one final comment.” Pg 225 Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson)

Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative worked very hard to free and exonerate Walter McMillan.  But, as Stevenson mentioned, had Judge Robert E. Lee Key not overridden the jury’s verdict, McMillan would likely have died in prison.  Prosecutorial and law enforcement misconduct weren’t enough to get the attention of the Equal Justice Initiative, although this is something that the group is very concerned with, rather, it was the action of a judge.   Under the revised proposed Innocence Inquiry Commission legislation, a case such as McMillan’s would be heard if a judge sentenced the person to death, but in the same case if it were a life in prison sentence, the person’s case could not be heard by the innocence commission.

I asked Alabama State Senator Cam Ward, chair of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee, why the bill was revised to include only death penalty cases via an exchange on twitter and he responded that the sponsor of the bill requested the change because he could not get the votes passed in original form (Feb. 25, 2016 tweet @artiestan is where it can be found. I can understand why Sen. Brewbaker felt the need to withdraw his original bill for the revised bill because these high profile exonerations were in the news and it hits home among even the toughest law and order legislator. Brewbaker, for example, is a strong proponent of the death penalty, but even someone such as him can look at Anthony Hinton’s case (30 years on death row, when he should not have spent a single day in prison) and feel genuinely concerned about innocent inmates on death row,  but there are many who are not on death row whose sentence can also be a matter of life and death.

Timothy Cole, a college student sentenced to prison for 25 years for a crime that he did not commit, died on year 13 of his sentence, a death sentence, essentially, he was 39 at the time of his death. Recently, the New York Magazine published a powerful piece entitled “That’s When I Knew I Was Free: Eight Exonerated Prisoners on Their First Week Outside.”

It includes two friends who were arrested when they were 16 for carjacking and murder. David McCallam spent nearly 30 years of his life in prison before his exoneration, his co-defendant, Willie Stuckey, died in prison. It can be a life and death situation whether an innocent person is sentenced to a capital or non-capital case.  They were sentenced 25 years to life, not a death sentence. Imagine being given a 20 year sentence. Imagine giving a hug and kiss to your young son that cannot yet walk or talk.  Imagine not being able to hear his first words, the first time he walks, the first day of school. Imagine missing his 16th birthday, and then his graduation, 18 years have passed by and you remain in prison for crimes you did not commit, while that son who was a baby is now a young man. Do these individuals not deserve a shot at justice before a state sponsored Innocence Commission?

What one discovers in being an advocate for an innocent person who is incarcerated is that there is a triage when it comes to taking on wrongful convictions- death penalty cases, life without parole cases, juveniles sentenced to life, and many law firms take on capital cases as pro bono opportunities.  Stevenson in the quote above stated that he would not have heard about Hinton’s case had the judge not sentenced him to death. Beth Schwartzapfel’s  reports this about Timothy Cole in her brilliant article entitled “No Country for Innocent Men : “In 1992, his case was considered by the pardon and parole board. He was asked if he was sorry for what he did. He said he didn’t do anything. He was denied parole. He kept up on emerging DNA technology, and in 1995 he wrote a letter to the newly founded Innocence Project in New York City, but the organization did not take his case. In 1996, he was denied parole again.”   Timothy Cole did not live to see the statue and legislation dedicated in his honor and he, like so many, would not have a slight chance to have their cases heard in a state that has an Innocence Commission, but only for death penalty cases.  He didn’t receive a death penalty, but his sentence to prison ended up being a death sentence.

Are we willing to say that, well, if you are sentenced to ten years, just take the sentence and move on, it’s only ten years of your life and we don’t want to point out the problems in your case, even if the problem included egregious prosecutorial misconduct? When someone has a 20 year sentence, innocence projects may believe that by the time a case is appealed, that the person will be free or paroled, but the innocent and incarcerated even runs into a roadblock dealing with parole- it difficult getting parole when one is not remorseful; as what is quoted in the Timothy Cole case demonstrates, it is difficult to be remorseful, when one is innocent. Award winning investigative journalists Beth Schwartzapfel points out in her award winning Washington Post article on parole entitled: “How Parole Boards Keep People in the Dark and Behind Bars”

“A months-long Marshall Project investigation reveals that, in many states, parole boards are so deeply cautious about releasing prisoners who could come back to haunt them that they release only a small fraction of those eligible — and almost none who have committed violent offenses, even those who pose little danger and whom a judge clearly intended to go free.”

So a person sentenced to 20 years in prison, even if there is overwhelming evidence of innocence, can remain in prison for those 20 years, appeals exhausted and no chance for substantive help. As included in Beth’s article as it relates to Alabama:

“In Alabama, it’s almost unheard of for the board to grant parole over victim opposition. The board also routinely receives letters opposing parole from the governor, the attorney general and other elected officials.

 

“That’s going to impact the disposition when they protest, almost universally,” Alabama board Chairman Robert Longshore said. “You’ve got a very politicized victim community in the state of Alabama

In Rodney’s case, we have been told by attorneys who said that by the time they get his case into court on an appeal, that he would likely be paroled, thus the resources need to be used on cases where inmates have longer sentences.  Rodney, under the situation described by Longshore, who denied Rodney parole three times, by the way, did not have a fighting chance to get parole.  The newly passed Alabama Prison Reform bill  is supposed to provide some relief for inmates who have 12-24 months left on their sentences, but this is not the reality.  What the bills says and what is actually happening are two different realities, but that is the subject for another day.

The innocence inquiry bill introduced in the Alabama Senate easily made it through the judiciary committee and goes to the full Alabama senate floor. It, of course, has to pass the House side of the Alabama legislative body.  I applaud this step that the legislature is taking and I certainly would not speak out against a bill that recognizes that innocent people are in prison and that they need for the state to do more to address this.  Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said about the bill: “”Senate Bill 237 is unnecessary as death row inmates already have access to a process to establish innocence under the Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Furthermore, the bill would supplant the role of the current judicial system by creating a ‘fourth layer of appeals’ outside of the review already provided by the circuit courts, Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Alabama Supreme Court.”  Also “Strange urged senators to join him and the victims of violent crime in “standing on the side of justice and oppose this bill.” http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2016/02/change_alabama_innocence_inqui.html

The sentiment expressed by AG Strange is echoed by districts attorneys who would rather get a conviction and maintain a conviction, rather than acknowledging prosecutorial misconduct and that they convicted innocent people; For the state to acknowledge that something needs to be done is worthy of applause.  I am in a position of being frustrated and heartbroken that the original bill isn’t being considered, but I am excited that the state of Alabama is moving in the right direction.  It shows that  humanity is seeping through among some legislators.  But this same humanity must be shown for people who are not sentenced to death. Do they not deserve to have their case heard by a proposed Alabama Innocence Inquiry Commission?

Please take a moment to thank Sen. Brewbaker for introducing this legislation. He can be reached by clicking here- Brewbaker.  And if you are in Alabama but are not sure who represents you in the Alabama House and Senate, then please click here to locate your legislators and consider contacting them: http://capwiz.com/state-al/home/

Also, you can express your thoughts about whether all felony cases should be included as his original bill proposed.  The session is relatively short, so do not delay.

I have spent nearly 20 year of my life fighting for the exoneration of Rodney K. Stanberry, I will spend another 20 years if necessary.  Even if this bill is not amended to include all felonies, we must not give up on the fight to support innocence commissions, conviction integrity units, and electing prosecutors and attorney generals who do not place the conviction above true justice. When prosecutors run unopposed, they have no incentive to change. DA Ashley Rich, when she was running seemed sympathetic toward the possibility that innocent people are in prison, as the actual DA, not so much. Don’t give, justice is worth fighting for.

Peace,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

 

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Mistakes of the (Miss) Universe: Why Won’t District Attorneys Admit Their Mistakes?

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December 25th, 2015

Mistakes of the (Miss) Universe: Why Won’t District Attorneys Admit Their Mistakes?

I know it is the holiday season and people justly want to focus on family members and friends, but please keep those who are innocent and incarcerated in mind, and support innocence projects around the world.  For the innocent and incarcerated, major holidays such as Christmas is a reminder of the precious years lost- precious years that one cannot back, precious years away from family members, and the recognition that one may never have another Christmas with a loved one.

The Internet was recently abuzz with the Steve Harvey incident, you know which one. He inadvertently crowns Ms. Colombia as Miss Universe instead of Miss. Philippines, the apparent winner. Steve Harvey returned to the stage within two minutes and owned up to his mistake.  Now, it may have been easier if the pageant organizers and Steve Harvey pretended that a mistake was not made, it may have prevented the negative publicity, but it certainly would not have been ethical.  The best policy would have been to own up to the mistake. Steve Harvey did so and said, as I recall, that it was all on him, that the right person is listed on the card;  he just read it wrong. Now I know that so many people are seeing this as a publicity stunt, but one can only imagine what our judicial system would be like if prosecutors recognized that they are investigating the wrong person and therefore, they need to focus on the actual perpetrator. When a prosecutor has a theory and/or if he/she has spent several months on an investigation, he/she may not want to acknowledge the mistake, rather, the temptation may be to let the jury figure it out and leave it up to the defendant’s attorney to present the best defense possible.

Take, for example, Anthony Hinton, who spent nearly 30 years on death row from crimes he did not commit.  Although it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime, he was arrested, convicted, and made his home on Alabama’s death row for three decades.  The prosecutor in his case had a documented history of racial bias, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, “and said he could tell Mr. Hinton was guilty and “evil” solely from his appearance. http://www.eji.org/deathpenalty/innocence/hinton  Instead of owning up to the reality of his potential innocence, the temptation was too strong to get the conviction, in this case, not based on a theory, but based on how someone looked.

Take, for example, Timothy Cole, who died in prison, when another person later confessed, the prosecutor was not willing to admit/acknowledge a wrongdoing, instead he allowed Cole to spend more years in prison where he eventually died due to a health complication.

Take, for example, Michael Morton, the prosecutor had evidence before his trial indicating that he was innocent, but the sensational nature of the case was too strong, there was a strong need to convict. In Morton’s case, the prosecutor’s mea culpa came nearly 3 decades after Morton’s arrest and conviction and after the Texas Bar saw his actions to be so egregious that they put him on trial. Unfortunately, I can give you so many cases like this, including the case of William Ziegler, prosecuted by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office. There are so many cases where if the prosecutor just admitted his/her mistake, an innocent person may have avoided spending years in prison.  Imagine a world where prosecutors did not mind returning to the center of the stage and saying, my mistake, we saw the evidence, we opted not to withhold it, we want to do what is right by the judicial system. Imagine.

Rodney K. Stanberry

Rodney K. Stanberry was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995 and sentenced in 1997 for crimes he did not commit. He remains in prison, another Christmas, another holiday that he has missed with his family and friends. The prosecutor in his case had a confession by one of the individuals who committed the crimes. The prosecutor opted to not believe the confession because it interfered with his theory, and he suppressed the confession before Rodney’s trial. This same prosecutor travelled from Mobile, Alabama to Rikers Island Prison in New York to interview the person he says was the shooter only to claim that he did not take any notes to share because he was on vacation. The prosecutor (Buzz Jordan) could have at any point before Rodney’s trial pursued the truth and actual justice for the victim of the brutal crime committed, but, instead, he took the “easy” route to convict an innocent man.  Another Assistant District Attorney in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, when confronted by the person who confessed (he was on the witness stand ready to confess-again), opted to ignore his confession- she gave him this warning: If you say what we think you will say, then it lights up for you. This is after an exchange where she is pretending (my opinion) to express concern that Moore should consult with an attorney before he confesses AGAIN. Rodney’s attorney reminds her that he had an attorney (one of the most well-known in Mobile, if I may add) when he confessed in front of Jordan. The bottom line, Tierney wanted to make absolute certain that Moore would not confess again, thus throwing the state’s theory out. You see, it is the conviction and not the truth that matters (you can read the exchange here (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/tierny_redo.9113550.pdf). This sounds to me the opposite of saying “our bad, we made a mistake, we knew it for a while, now we will move to remedy it- after all, the truth and justice are what we are concerned with in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office.  Unfortunately, we know how the District Attorney’s Office views Rule 32 hearings. A Rule 32 hearing is a chance for a convicted inmate to have an opportunity for a new trial after appeals have been exhausted, usually for ineffective counsel. A current Assistant District Attorney (Adero Marshall) in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office posted a YouTube video about these Rule 32 hearings.  Here is a quote from a YouTube video sponsored by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office:  I find myself in a unique position of defending the defense attorneys and their actions in hearings to ensure that these convicted felons remain convicted and that justice is truly served.  It requires research, writing, and understanding the law as well as being able to effectively communicate with and work with the defense bar. ” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT3WRvG4hLk  There is no admitting or acknowledging a mistake by far too many prosecutors, including those under the leadership of Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich. You heard ADA Marshall, it is about upholding the conviction, to prosecutors, justice is served when the conviction is upheld.  A prosecutor withheld evidence- no problem, we will uphold the conviction. The person whose confession we suppressed wants to confess- no problem, we will be sure to scare him out of doing so.  Where is the justice in this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Finally, after Rodney was convicted, he remained out on appeal. He met with a probation officer and this is from the report:

“Probation & Parole Officer’s Remarks:

Subject made a good impression on this officer. He was very concerned about the situation and stated continuously that he had nothing to do with these cases. He did tell me that Terrell Moore had confessed to these crimes and had given a confession to the District Attorney and to the police department. I spoke with Mr. Moore and Mr. Moore stated that he knows for certainty that Rodney Karl Stanberry did not commit these offenses ….Rodney Stanberry was very polite during the course of this interview and supplied this officer with all the necessary information needed. (Note, this is from a report written by A. Lewis II, Alabama Probation and Parole Officer, on May 3rd, 1995- the complete report (about 3 pages) is available to the media and the Mobile District Attorney’s Office upon request)

This is who Rodney was. He was a law abiding citizen who worked at the same job up until just before he entered prison on March 24th, 1997.

In contrast, here is what the people we trust to pursue justice behave:

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. http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/moore_in_court_more_on_can_he_testify_and_his_pleading_the_5th-_pgs_664-687testimony_by_victims_sister_688-705

 

During Rodney’s trial in 1995 Assistant District Attorney Buzz Jordan’s statement to the jury asking if they’d be willing to convict an individual based on no physical and scientific evidence, no weapons, no fingerprints and so on.

On page 687 of the transcript, the jury appears restless and sends a message to the judge that they are ready for this case to end. Two days later when the jury is set to deliberate, they get the case just before noon. The judge says before you get this case, it is noon, so go get lunch first. The jury said that lunch wasn’t necessary. 48 minutes later, they gave a unanimous guilty verdict on all three counts (attempted murder, attempted burglary, attempted robbery. During the sentencing phase, Jordan reiterated his belief that this was a murder for hire and that he would be bringing Rene Whitecloud and possibly one other person to trial. It never happened. Why, because the Mobile District Attorney’s Office would have been exposed, they convicted an innocent man and the people with knowledge of the crimes stated so, even though it meant that they may have gotten prison time.

Far too many prosecutors do the total opposite of acknowledging a mistake. They lose sight that this is about justice, including justice for the victim. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted. The conviction and upholding the conviction are far more important than the pursuit of justice.  It must have been very difficult for Steve Harvey to return to the stage, look at the person who is not actually the “winner’ and say in front of a worldwide audience that he read the card wrong. As I discuss in this blog entitled “The Prosecutor and the Criminal,” too many prosecutors will look at a defendant that they know are likely innocent, and pursue the case anyway. The truth becomes a casualty of war.  And with that, they likely look at Steve Harvey’s acknowledgement of his mistake and say, well, that guy certainly would not be a good fit for our office. I’m being a bit facetious.  Nevertheless, too few prosecutors are like Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson  and too many are like the prosecutors who prosecuted the aforementioned cases. As I’ve written before, there are so few prosecutors that would acknowledge what DA Kenneth Thompson acknowledged: “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.” http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/10/09/to-be-free-and-exonerated-in-a-fair-and-just-world/ If Steve Harvey were acting like many prosecutors, when he announced Miss Colombia as the winner of the Miss Universe title, he would have ignored evidence that he knew to be true (the actual name on the card). He would leave it up to someone else to the right thing, the head of the Miss Universe pageant, for example, but not him. In our judicial system, too many prosecutors are rewarded for not pursuing actual justice. Steve Harvey is apparently being rewarded with a new contract with the Miss Universe organization by acknowledging that he made a mistake. What’s wrong with this picture?

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

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The Sport of Boxing and The Arena of Prosecutors- Fighting Against Wrongful Convictions

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November 29th, 2015

The Sport of Boxing and The Arena of Prosecutors- Fighting Against Wrongful Convictions

 

Many believe that boxing is a barbaric sport.  A boxing match consists of two individuals, in peak condition, inflicting as much pain and blows to the body as possible until the match concludes. The optimum conclusion is a knockout- that knock-out punch that keeps an opponent down for the count. Right jab, left jab, right jab, upper cut and then come back with a powerful right hook, a few more blows to the body if the opponent survives this and Boom, it’s over.  I am not a boxing fan. There are epic matches such as the Ali- Frazier 1971 fight that live on in the memory of many, and then there are the “matches” fought by once imprisoned boxer Dewey Bozella.  As mentioned in this article entitled  Dewey Bozella’s Next Challenge: Life on the Outside: “At 23, he went to prison and didn’t re-emerge until he was 50, finally exonerated and vindicated. Twenty-six and a half years, gone — eight more than Rubin “Hurricane” Carter did, by the way. He walks with a limp but retains the vigor and energy of a young man.” https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/dewey-bozellas-next-challenge-life-on-the-outside

Dewey Bozella was wrongfully convicted solely on the testimony of two people who had their sentences reduced in return for saying that Bozella committed a murder. I’ve written about this case a few times before and what stood out for me then is what continues to stand out now, and that is his refusal to say he was guilty for crimes that he did not commit, even if it would have gotten him an early release date. My cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, might have been out of prison many years ago if he played this game, but you can’t give in to a falsehood. The truth and one’s integrity is all that one has when the system- represented by district attorneys and some in law enforcement- decide that you are the one they want, even if you are innocent. So one must fight for the truth, in the arena where prosecutors see the truth as a casualty of the convict and maintain convictions at all cost world that is their arena.

Bozella’s toughest match was not in a boxing ring with an opponent- rather, it was with a prosecutor and a judicial system that placed many blows to his body and soul. The 23 year old could not withstand the blows of the system, but he kept fighting and remained true to himself. The world of wrongful convictions is barbaric. The only people who may not think so are the prosecutors who get them. As I’ve said frequently, prosecutors are needed and they do have tough jobs, but the prosecutors who knowingly convict innocent people and/or that fight to keep them in prison should begin yesterday to do what is fair, right and just. No one wins- except for prosecutors- when an innocent person is convicted.

The Case of Glenn Ford

There are prosecutors who will never admit that the system has failed.  Take the District Attorney who finally worked to exonerate Glenn Ford after he spent 30 years in prison.  Here is an interview conducted by 60 Minutes:

“Bill Whitaker: Did Mr. Ford get justice in this case?

Dale Cox: I think he has– gotten delayed justice.

Dale Cox, the acting district attorney of Caddo Parish, got Glenn Ford released after receiving the informant’s information. As he sees it, the justice system worked and no one, including Marty Stroud, did anything wrong.

Dale Cox: I don’t know what it is he’s apologizing for. I think he’s wrong in that the system did not fail Mr. Ford.

Bill Whitaker: It did not?

Dale Cox: It did not…in fact…

Bill Whitaker: How can you say that?

Dale Cox: Because he’s not on death row. And that’s how I can say it.

 

Bill Whitaker: Getting out of prison after 30 years is justice?

Dale Cox: Well, it’s better than dying there and it’s better than being executed—-

There may be no more controversial prosecutor in the U.S. than Dale Cox. Between 2010 and 2014, his Caddo Parish office put more people on death row per capita than anywhere else in the country. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/30-years-on-death-row-exoneration-60-minutes/

It should be noted that the original prosecutor in Ford’s case, Marty Shroud III, apologized 3 decades later and apologized for the type of prosecutor he was. He said:

“There was no technicality here. Crafty lawyering did not secure the release of a criminal. Mr. Ford spent 30 years of his life in a small, dingy cell. His surroundings were dire. Lighting was poor, heating and cooling were almost non-existent, food bordered on the uneatable. Nobody wanted to be accused of “coddling” a death row inmate.

 

But Mr. Ford never gave up. He continued the fight for his innocence. And it finally paid off.”

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/03/20/lead-prosecutor-offers-apology-in-the-case-of-exonerated-death-row-inmate-glenn-ford/25049063/

Glenn Ford died in June 2015 at the age of 65.  When he was in his early 30s, he was sentenced to death row. Shroud, who got his conviction, said this: “In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie “And Justice for All,” “Winning became everything.”  While Shroud likely has a nice retirement plan, Glen ford was not compensated for the 30 years of his life that was taken away. And his memory of his release was this:

Glenn Ford: What law is this? I never heard of such law where it says it’s OK to do what they did to me without any type of compensation.

There was some compensation. Glenn Ford was given a $20 gift card the day he left Angola prison.

Glenn Ford: Gave me a card for $20 and said “Wish you luck.”

Bill Whitaker: How long did that last you?

Glenn Ford: One meal. I had some fried chicken, tea and the French fries came with it. I had $4 and change left.

Bill Whitaker: After 30 years in prison?

Glenn Ford: Right.

Bill Whitaker: Thirty years on death row in solitary confinement and the state of Louisiana releases Mr. Ford with a $20 gift card. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/30-years-on-death-row-exoneration-60-minutes/

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter also intimately understood that his toughest opponent was not one in the boxing, rather a system that wants to convict and forget, a system that things it key to survival is to refuse to acknowledge and remedy conditions that lead to a wrongful conviction.  I wrote the following upon his death in April 2014:

The world lost a tremendous advocate for those who are wrongfully convicted. Rubin “Hurricane’ Carter, who spent nearly 20 years of his life in prison for crimes he did not commit died on Easter Sunday, 2014. In the weeks before his death, even as he was suffering from cancer, Carter wrote a powerful article about a man in prison in New York, a man Carter believes is innocent, a man who has been incarcerated since the 1980s. Here is some of what he wrote: “My single regret in life is that David McCallum of Brooklyn — a man incarcerated in 1985, the same year I was released, and represented by Innocence International since 2004 — is still in prison. I request only that McCallum be granted a full hearing by the Brooklyn conviction integrity unit, now under the auspices of the new district attorney, Ken Thompson.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/hurricane-carter-dying-article-1.1621747#ixzz2zSGIYJ3u”

 

It is tremendously powerful for a dying man to pursue justice for someone he believes is innocent.  We need for more prosecutors to seek the truth over the conviction. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2014/06/22/innocent-and-imprisoned-in-alabama-birthdays-fathers-days-and-the-marking-of-the-years/

Rubin’s fight for justice in the case of David McCallum likely helped to gain his release after he spent 29 years in prison. (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/09/8-exonerated-prisoners-first-week-outside.html and http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/10/09/to-be-free-and-exonerated-in-a-fair-and-just-world/)

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter understood that you have to continue the fight until the end because the system is continuous, will try to take you beyond the rounds of a match that the innocent prepare for as the innocent person naively believes, during those crucial early rounds especially, that the system is fair and just- at all times, not 3 decades later.

Carter’s fight with prosecutors that put on their boxing gloves and enter the ring with an arrogance worthy of those with the power on their side continued beyond his exoneration and it continues beyond his death. Prosecutors have the advantage in their arena; their reach is longer, allowing them to inflict the most damage to the defendant- their natural opponent.  And there is no shortage of prize fighters who hold the same attitude as prosecutor Shroud: “In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.”  And on occasion when the prosecutor’s opponent seems formidable, ie having a solid alibi-being at work when a crime took place, a confession by the person who actually committed the crime and so on, the prosecutor needs to be sure that he/she has some advantage, perhaps by hitting below the belt (ie withholding evidence), or taking a sucker punch just after the bell rings indicating that a round is over  (ie suppressing evidence that would clear a defendant at the start of the trial), or by planting in a referee’s (the judge/jury) that the opponent is a dirty fighter and therefore can’t be trusted-therefore, every call must go our way.  Prosecutors have an advantage in our system.

Creed

I recently watched the movie Creed.  Michael B. Jordan, who played the son of Apollo Creed, was an inexperienced fighter who got the chance of a lifetime to fight a bigger (both in size and in name), more resourced, more established fighter.  It didn’t hurt that he had Rocky Balboa in his corner training him. For those of us fighting on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, we cannot always have a Rocky Balboa, that is to say a Barry Scheck, a Bryan Stevenson, a large law firm looking to do pro bono work, rather, we have to be the Creed to the “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (see the movie), and we have to take it one step at a time, we have to go round by round, even though the system tries to deliver a technical knockout- standing behind a jury’s decision, even though they know they misled the jury, by refusing to reopen a case, letting the victim/victim’s family believe that they (the prosecutor) got it right so they won’t question the decision and accept false closure, or by running out the clock to ensure that an innocent inmate will not get a day in court and will not be exonerated.  Yes, the prosecutors are the Apollo Creeds, the Muhummad Ali’s (much respect), brash, sure of themselves, ready to take on all challengers, but advocates must continue to fight, round by round, even though it hurts to know that they system is not designed to help the wrongfully convicted, even though the system is stacked against you with State Bar Associations unwilling to do the necessary policing of prosecutors, even though you will never have the resources that they have to bring about justice.

In the end, even if an inmate is never exonerated, society will know that a prosecutor willingly and knowingly allowed for an innocent person to be incarcerated and that the system protected this act. It is a moral victory, but at the end of the 16th round, the prosecutors may have won the fight, but you’ve won the battle and hopefully others who are in the same situation will take on the fight.  The justice loving community has to continue to chant “ justice, justice, justice” so that it can reverberate not only in the arena of a boxing match, but throughout society so that  more prosecutors can mimic the work of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson who secured the release of David McCullom and 13 others during his short tenure as District attorney-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lorenzo-johnson/meet-the-prosecutor-fighting-to-overturn-wrongful-convictions_b_8617584.html  As I wrote before, There are so few prosecutors that would acknowledge what DA Kenneth Thompson acknowledged: “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.” http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/10/09/to-be-free-and-exonerated-in-a-fair-and-just-world/  When my cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, was convicted in 1995 by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, prosecutor Buzz Jordan (seen in this video), ignored a confession by the actual culprit, ignored evidence that Rodney was at work, and ignored evidence demonstrating Rodney’s innocence. Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, Jr. defended Jordan’s work, as did Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney who remained silent, upon hearing Jordan say in Rodney’ Rule 32 (appeal) hearing that he traveled to New York’s Rikers Island Prison from Mobile to interview a suspect, but took no notes because he was on vacation,” and current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich continues to sanction the prosecution and conviction of an innocent man. She would NEVER say that she inherited a legacy of disgrace when it comes to wrongful convictions even as her lead attorney was accused by a judge of engaging in prosecutorial misconduct  in the William Ziegler case (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/04/23/who-will-hold-prosecutors-accountable-for-their-actions-the-case-of-william-j-ziegler/). Prosecutors can recover from the occasional loss of a fight because in their world, it can take decades before another loss occurs. By then, they are reflecting and maybe apologizing for the prosecutor they were as opposed being the prosecutor who pursues justice over convictions, that pursues honestly above deception, that pursues the truth over maintaining the conviction.  Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson and former Dallas County, Texas DA Craig Watkins are role models for this, I am thankful for them.  What about your local District Attorney? Most District Attorneys are elected officials, you can be more than a spectator by using your vote to help make a difference.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

www.freerodneystanberry.com

Articles of Interest:

http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

http://yourblackworld.net/2012/11/14/black-community-rallies-to-re-open-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/

http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=2332

http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5978

And although Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich is does not have an opponent for her upcoming District Attorney’s race, you can contact her office to encourage her to reopen Rodney’s case, address wrongful convictions by establishing a conviction integrity unit, and ensure that public that the truth is more important than the conviction. She can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or ashleyrich@mobileda.org

 

 

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To Be Free and Exonerated- In a Fair and Just World

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October 9, 2015

To Be Free and Exonerated- In a Fair and Just World

Recently, the New York Magazine published a powerful piece entitled “That’s When I Knew I Was Free: Eight Exonerated Prisoners on Their First Week Outside.” As the title entails, it highlights the first week of “freedom” by 8 individuals who were exonerated, many after spending lengthy years in prison. The time each of the 8 individuals highlighted served ranged from the 16 years Jeffrey Deskovic spent in prison to the 29 years that David McCallum spent in prison, for crimes they did not commit! McCallum is now 46 years old and he was just released last year. He has spent more than half of his life trying to understand how could, in the United States of America, an innocent person spend so much time in prison.  I am assuming that that is what he spent a lot of time thinking about.  He was 16 years old when he was accused of carjacking and murder- he and his co-defendant could not even drive! Like McCallum, Deskovic was also arrested at the age of 16, accused of rape and murder. Sixteen, their sweet sixteen was the introduction to a criminal justice system that accused them both of serious crimes. Can you imagine being 16 years old and facing a judge, a jury, and then the realities of prison life?

I’ve always said that to get exonerated is like winning the lottery. It is not something that happens easily or quickly.  The odds are not in favor of the accused. As many who are exonerated will tell you, there are so many others serving time in prison for crimes they did not commit that the public knows little or nothing about.   And, as we saw in the Tim Cole case, among others, death can come before one is exonerated.  McCallum was arrested along with Willie Stuckey.  Stuckey did not live to see his exoneration.  Here is a paragraph from the article:

“I was walking out without Willie Stuckey walking beside me. He was my childhood friend and my co-defendant. He passed away while he was in prison. He was 32. I saw Stuckey’s mom when we were in the elevator together going up to the courtroom. She said to me, “It’s supposed to be two of you.” And she broke down. I was still shackled, so I couldn’t really hold her even if I wanted to. The district attorney and the judge let his mom sit in for him, so we were sitting next to each other while the proceedings were taking place. She said something very profound to me. She said, “You’re my son now.”” http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/09/8-exonerated-prisoners-first-week-outside.html#

This is a tragedy and a travesty all the way around. To be a parent of someone in prison is a daily heart ache.  Speaking as someone who has a cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, who remains in prison- 18 years and counting– for crimes he did not commit, I can tell you that there is not a day that goes by when your heart isn’t aching, when you don’t feel a tremendous sense of pain over the injustice and the reality that a person has lost his/her freedom because they system failed them. To be a parent, that is just devastating.  One often hears that a parent’s worst fear is outliving their children. Add to this fear the reality that one’s son is innocent and incarcerated. It is a sense of helplessness that is difficult to get over.  Willie Stuckey’s mother outlived her son, but she lived to see him exonerated.  It is a bittersweet moment, but she will likely forever think about what her son at 32 could have done with his life as a free man.  She will likely think about the grandchildren by him that she never will have.  And every birthday that comes around, she will remember where he spent his 16th, 18th, 21st, 25, and 30th birthday- in prison. She will forever be reminded that the state took her son at 16 and gave him back to her at the age of 32 to be buried. The system swallowed him up and left him to digest on the juices of injustice.

More Reflections of the Exonerated

The reflections of the men (all men were highlighted in the New York Magazine piece) were powerful.  It was told from the vantage point of those who received some sort of delayed justice.  But after years, decades even, incarcerated, there must be something akin to a post-traumatic stress syndrome at play. On some level, even the exonerated may wonder if they will ever truly be free.

Imagine the emotional roller coaster of being wrongfully convicted and then finally finding someone or a group that believes in your case and is willing to fight on your behalf.  That sense of hope that one may have suppressed becomes stronger. But this hope is fleeting as one set back after another takes place. It is mental torture in some aspects.  Let’s return to the McCallum case, for example.

McCallum’s appeals had been exhausted, his attorney asked then Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes to submit it to the Conviction Integrity Unit for review.  Hynes claimed that after investigation, there was no evidence to support claims of innocence. When Hynes was defeated in his reelection bid and replaced by DA Kenneth Thompson, McCallum’s attorney asked again for the DA’s office to review the case, and Rubin Hurricane Carter’s dying wish was for McCallum’s case to be reviewed.

“In August 2013, Hynes’s office informed Michelen that the office had concluded there was no evidence to support McCallum’s claim of innocence.

In the fall of 2013, after Hynes was defeated in his bid for re-election, Michelen wrote to Kenneth Thompson, the newly elected District Attorney, imploring him to take a fresh look at the McCallum case.

In April 2014, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a well-known middle-weight prize fighter who was cleared of a wrongful conviction for murder in 1985, died of prostate cancer. Before he died, Carter sent a letter asking Thompson—as a dying wish—to review McCallum’s case anew.

 

On October 15, 2014, Thompson moved the Kings County, New York, Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of both McCallum and Stuckey. The motion was granted and the charges against both men were dismissed. McCallum was released immediately.

 

Thompson said the confessions clearly were false. He also was harshly critical of his predecessor, Hynes, for failing to seriously address claims of innocence. Thompson declared, “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.”

https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=4523

What a difference a district attorney makes.  Far too many district attorneys are content with getting a conviction on questionable evidence and maintaining the conviction simply for the sake of maintaining the conviction.  More district attorneys such as Ken Thompson and former Dallas County, Texas District attorney Craig Watkins are desperately needed as they recognize that justice is far more important than simply maintaining a conviction. There are far too many district attorney offices where there is, to quote DA Thompson again, “a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.”

What About Those Who Haven’t Been Exonerated?

The second annual Wrongful Conviction Day  was October 2nd. According to the Innocent Project’s website, “The purpose of Wrongful Conviction Day is to set aside a day to focus on and discuss the causes and remedies concerning wrongful convictions, an issue that affects and devastates individuals, families and societies worldwide. In recognition of the day, innocence groups from around the world will hold events and host a range of activities to raise awareness about the many cases of people who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit.” http://www.innocenceproject.org/news-events-exonerations/october-2-is-wrongful-conviction-day

It is very important to recognize Wrongful Conviction Day because the public needs to be aware of how easy it is to convict and innocent person in this country.  And that once an innocent person is convicted, it may take years, if not decades, for that person to be exonerated. That is a sad and painful reality.  Recently, the Equal justice Initiative (EJI) announced that their client, Beniah Dandridge, was exonerated after spending 20 years in prison on a murder charge.  Apparent poor forensics by the Alabama Bureau of Investigations and the use of a jail house informant helped to convict an innocent man. For 20 years Dandridge languished in prison wondering if he would be a free AND exonerated man.  I would like to see prosecutors in this case and so many others to respond to questions about what is it like to see someone that they either sent to prison or worked extremely hard to keep that person in prison to be exonerated.  Do they care? Does it matter how justice seems perverted when prosecutors engage in tactics that lead to wrongful convictions? Will they try hard to prevent these types of convictions? Would they establish a Conviction Integrity Unit? And so on. There are so few prosecutors that would acknowledge what DA Kenneth Thompson acknowledged: “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.”  Justice should not depend on which district attorney is prosecuting one’s case or with judicial district one is in, it should depend on prosecutors going beyond the extra step to ensure that the actual culprits are convicted and working for, not against, efforts to free innocent people.

I would also like to see articles featuring voters who are also asked how they feel when they watch the news and learn that an innocent person had been exonerated after 5, 10, 15, 20, 36 and more years in prison.  And in these articles there should be an understanding of how district attorneys handle these cases and whether district attorneys are elected or appointed. In most jurisdictions, district attorneys are elected and, therefore, these voters should be asked if it is a responsibility of theirs to hold district attorneys accountable for their actions.  It costs a lot of money to incarcerate an inmate, imagine the amount of money a state has to spend keeping an innocent person incarcerated.  Taxpayers have a vested interest in seeing that prosecutors pursue justice, not theories and false information.  No one wins when there is a wrongful conviction, except for prosecutors who build their careers on the quantity, not the quality, of convictions.  Wrongful convictions are not pro-victim, they are pro-prosecutor and we need to be aware of this reality.

Conclusion

I am interested in this subject matter because I have a cousin who is in his 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit.  He was prosecuted by Joe Carl “Buzz Jordan who worked for the Mobile District Attorney’s office. Subsequent Mobile District Attorneys John Tyson, Jr. and Ashley Rich (the current DA) refuse to acknowledge that Rodney did not commit the crimes for which he is accused.  I will not get into Rodney’s case here, but please read this blog about whether Rodney could be two places at once, this investigative report by Beth Schwartzapfel  that was published in the Boston Review and go to this website www.freerodneystanberry.com.  When DA Ashley Rich was campaigning to replace retiring DA John Tyson, Jr., this is what she said in response to a question:

Integrity is something that is so important because when you are a prosecutor, you not only have the duty to prosecute people and to put people in jail, but you also have a duty to uphold the law. You have the duty to do that with integrity and with the ethical standards in place… You must disclose exculpatory evidence because if you don’t, nothing good comes from it and essentially you have prosecuted someone who may not have committed the crimes because you didn’t disclose exculpatory evidence. Candidate Ashley Rich (September 16, 2010 ) Ashley Rich is now the Mobile County District Attorney after winning the election to replace former DA John Tyson, Jr. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich1.mp3

In spite of the concern DA Ashley Rich expressed about lessons that the Duke LaCrosse case provided, Rich has been silent when she was presented  two cases (Toby Priest and William Ziegler) where judges called her office out on prosecutorial misconduct by prosecutors in her office.  Ziegler was finally released after spending 15 years in prison, most of it on death row.  Here is an interview immediately following his release. The William Ziegler case was particularly disturbing, but Chief assistant district attorney Deborah Tillman, nor DA Ashley Rich, expressed any regret or fault in the way his case was prosecuted (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/04/23/who-will-hold-prosecutors-accountable-for-their-actions-the-case-of-william-j-ziegler/). Withholding exculpatory evidence was suddenly not a matter of integrity for DA Ashley Rich. District Attorney Ashley Rich is campaigning for reelection.  Her primary is in March.  District Attorney is a very law and order, tough on crime district attorney. One can be a very law and order, tough on crime district attorney AND pursue true justice for the victim (s) of crimes, even if it means not getting a conviction and even if it means working to release innocent people.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I wish DA Ashley Rich the best, I know she wants to make the community safer, but she can do this while also doing what is right, fair, and just when it comes to wrongful convictions.  She doesn’t entertain the idea of establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit because she believes her prosecutors use safeguards to prevent such actions.  If the safeguards were in place for the Priest and Ziegler case, they failed miserably.  In my cousin’s (Rodney K. Stanberry) case, there was a confession made in front of prosecutor Buzz Jordan by the person actually involved in the crimes, but he dismissed and suppressed the confession. Jordan traveled to Rikers Island Prison from Mobile, Alabama to interview someone he said was the shooter, but claimed he did not take notes because he was on vacation!!! My cousin had evidence that he was at work when the crimes took place, but there was then a manipulation of the time frame of the crimes to pursue Jordan’s theory, there was lost evidence, and so on and so forth.  But DA Rich isn’t concerned with the actions in Rodney’s case either, so I am not sure what was the lesson she learned about the Duke Lacrosse case, other than, unlike Mike Nifong (Duke Lacrosse prosecutor),it is rare that a prosecutor will be sanctioned for engaging in prosecutorial misconduct (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/06/21/prosecutorial-accountability-and-state-bar-responsibility-when-will-it-become-the-norm/0 That lesson does not bode well for the integrity of the system.

Rodney K. Stanberry is on the the extremely long list of people who are innocent, but who may never be exonerated.  If we were to look at the estimates of those who are innocent and incarcerated (http://www.innocenceproject.org/faqs/how-many-innocent-people-are-there-in-prison), then we will see a long list of people trying to maintain hope and hoping that this country that has in its pledge of allegiance “with liberty and justice for all” will find more prosecutors pursuing actual justice and the integrity of the system. Prosecutors should understand that upholding the integrity of the system should not be paused when they are pursuing and maintaining questionable cases.

Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

www.freerodneystanberry.com

www.freerodneystanberry.com/blog

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/02/20/gun-control-what-happened-when-a-gun-enthusiast-tried-to-stop-the-sale-of-weapons-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?s=can+one+person+be+two+places+at+once

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The Ongoing Consequences of Convicting the Innocent-The Responsibility of District Attorneys

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August 3, 2015

The Ongoing Consequences of Convicting the Innocent-The Responsibility of District Attorneys

Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich: “Petitions are great.  A group of citizens banding together can move mountains.” Radio Interview, Friday, July 24th, 2015.

 

Last week, we learned of the death of Alprentiss Nash.  Mr. Nash spent 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  As reported in The Guardian, “He was released in August 2012 after DNA tests on a ski mask recovered from the scene matched the genetic profile of another man.” On Tuesday, July 28th, Mr. Nash was shot and killed, just three years after he obtained his freedom, he was 40 years old.  Mr. Nash spent nearly half of his life accused and incarcerated for a crime that he did not commit. When we think about the years lost for those sitting in prison, innocent and incarcerated, we have to think about how much time they have on this earth, how many family members have died since their incarceration, and how many key milestones that we all take for granted that the inmate has missed. At 40 years old, Mr. Nash still had so much life to live, at 20, when he would have entered the prison system as one who was wrongfully convicted, he could only dream of the day of his exoneration, not imagining that he would be locked up for literally half of his lifetime.  I don’t know much about Mr. Nash, nor his case, but I do know that the nation should be outraged that there were, are, and will continue to be innocent people who are serving time in prison for crimes they did not commit.  Mistakes are made, I understand that reality, but when actions by prosecutors are intentional, either in getting the wrongful conviction or in ensuring that a person that may actually be innocent remains in prison simply because a District Attorney doesn’t want to acknowledge ethical violations, to put it lightly, these actions become inexcusable and should not be tolerated- it should not be tolerated by State Bar Associations, nor by citizens who look for District Attorneys to prosecute people who commit crimes without resorting to prosecuting people for some personal reason or because it is an easy path to get a conviction.

About that Mask-If Prosecutors Know They Won’t Like Results of DNA Evidence, Do They “Lose” The Evidence?

Alprentiss Nash’s case sticks out to me because similar to Rodney K. Stanberry, he was convicted in 1995, also similar to Rodney’s case, a mask went “missing.”  A Prichard Police Officer claimed to not have retrieved a mask, yet, he took a photo of it and the victim’s husband said (in court) that he actually did collect the mask. Please review Officer Ragland’s testimony at Rodney’s trial as it includes the discussion about the mask and gloves. At the time when the crimes were committed, he worked in the Identification Division of the Prichard Police Department. And, as you will see when reading his testimony, after Rodney’s attorney questions him about whether he would typically do a DNA hair analysis on the mask, prosecutor Buzz Jordan comes back with this on redirect examination: Jordan: You are not any kind of DNA- you have no qualifications on DNA, do you?  Ragland: No, I have no expertise on DNA at all.  Jordan: And you have no qualifications on hair analysis Ragland: None.  Jordan: And you don’t have any of the facts of this event, do you? Ragland: No.  And it goes on like that. Again, here is the link to Officer Ragland’s testimony. So why was Rodney’s attorney pressing on the issue of the missing mask and gloves? Because the person who confessed to being one of the two people at the victim’s house when she was brutally shot said that his accomplice initially wore a mask.  The Mobile District Attorney’s office, to this day, prefers to pretend that the person who actually shot the victim did not exist.  Here is a link entitled “The Shooter, What They Want to Wish Away.” The Mobile DA’s Office wants to pretend that Angel “Wish” Melendez never existed and that Terrell Moore, the individual who confessed BEFORE Rodney’s trial was not actually involved in these crimes. Here is a link to the confession.  It would be a joke were it not so serious- a serious letdown by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office as they continue to ignore the truth and to dismiss evidence leading to the truth, favoring, instead, to pursue the conviction of an innocent man and spending nearly two decades to ensure that that innocent man remains in prison.  Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich can be instrumental in seeking the truth, actual justice for the victim, and exonerating an innocent man. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted.

It was convenient for Jordan to not have the mask as an issue, so Officer Ragland not recalling if he actually took the mask and gloves as opposed to just taking photos of them was convenient. Testing the DNA  on the mask would have further proved Rodney’s innocence so guess what was “lost/missing” before Rodney’s trial and probably will never be found? The mask. The hair analysis would have demonstrated that the person the DA’s office claimed did not actually exist, did exist.  Alprentiss Nash was finally able to get the mask used in his case tested- after 17 years in prison, he was finally exonerated.  But look how long the fight was to test an object that would have cleared an innocent man.  Do DA’s not care that when they focus on the innocent, that the actual guilty culprits get to remain free- free to commit more crimes? Do they not care about the victims of those crimes? Do they not care when innocent people sit in prison day after day, week after week, year after year, and sometimes decade after decade?  Alprentiss Nash was able to live just three years after spending 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  Sad and a shame.  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/29/chicago-man-released-prison-shot

DA Rich Encourages Activism? A group of people banding together can move mountains.

At the top of this blog is a quote by current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich during a recent appearance on a Mobile, Alabama radio show.  She said it in response to a caller praising her and asking for the impeachment of an elected official that she can’t discuss pending cases, but petitions are great. A group of people banding together can move mountains (it is towards the end of the show)

So many people have contacted the Mobile District Attorney’s Office about Rodney’s case for years. In fact, during DA Ashley Rich’s first 30 days in office, she received so many emails and telephone calls about Rodney’s case that her Chief Investigator (Mike Morgan) actually called people to ask about their interest in Rodney’s case!  That same Chief Investigator responded to questions about Rodney’s case in this article about Rodney’s case written by Kirsten West Savali-  http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/.  The actions of Mike Morgan, Chief Investigator for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, would not have happened without an engaged citizenry.  But this is not enough; District Attorney Ashley Rich must reopen Rodney’s case, in a serious manner.  She must make an effort to locate the mask and gloves since, as former DA John Tyson, Jr. stated, they don’t throw away evidence, they never have and they never will (well, we now know that this may not be the case as when a judge forced the Mobile DA’s Office to locate evidence in the William Ziegler case- recently released from death row and from prison, ADA Tillman said that she and Morgan looked for the evidence, but could not locate it) Convenient, isn’t it. So, over the course of the next two years (and even beyond two years as our destination is exoneration), I will ask you to continue to contact the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to ask for action on the mask and gloves, reopening Rodney’s case, reviewing and investigating how Buzz Jordan handled an actual confession, and to what extent did Jordan taint  this case by talking about a bitter divorce and child custody issues (see page 223 of the trial transcript and then carefully read the victim’s testimony, which can be found on our webpage- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part2half1Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161819.pdf).  As I stated in one of my first letters to District Attorney Ashley Rich: “It isn’t the victim’s fault, it is the system’s fault for dismissing all evidence, for the way the pseudo “photo lineups” was conducted, for dismissing a confession, engaging in poor tactics that even the judge condemned away from the jury, and otherwise influencing the victim because his prosecution hung only on her testimony (child custody issue, for example).  Just as I am sure that John Tyson, Jr. would have handled this case differently had he not been sworn in less than a year before the trial, I am sure that you want to do what is right and fully investigate and reopen Rodney K. Stanberry’s case.” (You can find the complete letter by clicking on the link that begins with Oct. 11 on the call to action page- http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/call_to_action-) .  Keep in mind, Jordan floated around a murder for hire theory so that even if the jury could figure out that Rodney could not have been at the victim’s house, that maybe he was involved in some murder for hire scheme. Jordan never charged anyone with this, but letting it hang out there and mentioning to the judge (Ferrill McRae) that there is a bitter divorce and a child custody issue will be decided after the trial is tainting the trial to get an outcome in his favor, if not in favor of actual justice.

It was and remains an absolute travesty what happened to the victim in this case as she, nor her family, deserved any of this.  It was and remains a travesty for Rodney and his family as they did not deserve this, either. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office could very well have convicted the actual culprits, but, for some reason only Jordan can explain, they settled on an innocent man. When district attorneys such as Ashley Rich refuse to acknowledge wrongful convictions, they shake confidence in the system. District Attorney Ashley Rich in her aforementioned interview spent a lot of time talking about how she lacks funding, her opposition to the recently passed prison reform bill, a bill designed to address Alabama’s prison overcrowding issues, and reinforcing her general tough on crime persona. When a DA candidate for another county was on the same show, but a week later, he mentioned something that Rich should also address:  training for Assistant District Attorneys, no matter how long they’ve been there.  She should reiterate what is exculpatory evidence, the need to maintain evidence, and to understand when there is actually enough evidence to pursue a case. And she should definitely emphasize that her ADAs should not manipulate witnesses, even when they have no evidence to pursue a case. I will post a couple of petitions to be signed and, from time to time, ask that you contact her office.  Here is sample of a petition recently posted on change.org, please read it. She can be the District Attorney to bring about the truth AND justice regarding Rodney’s case.  She can do the right thing and free Rodney K. Stanberry.  And we will see if she meant what she said about petitions being great and her belief that a group of citizens banding together can move mountains. How big of a mountain will she be in pursuit of actual justice?

Wrongful Convictions- Too Many Cases, Too Few Exonerations

A recent article entitled “The Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions” reinforces the reality of wrongful convictions and how difficult it is to get exonerated. The article was written by Samuel R. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan who is also the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations. Consider this paragraph from his article recently posted in the Washington Post “Suarez served three years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The average time served for the 1,625 exonerated individuals in the registry is more than nine years. Last year, three innocent murder defendants in Cleveland were exonerated 39 years after they were convicted — they spent their entire adult lives in prison — and even they were lucky: We know without doubt that the vast majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of crimes are never identified and cleared.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicting-the-innocent/2015/07/24/260fc3a2-1aae-11e5-93b7-5eddc056ad8a_story.html?postshare=2661437881896842

Rodney K. Stanberry is on his 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit.  The crimes for which he is accused took place in 1992, he was convicted in 1995 and began serving his prison term (three 20 year sentences to be served concurrently) in 1997. His father is now in his eighties, his mother has died, and his son born shortly before his incarceration graduated from high school this year- Rodney was not allowed to attend his graduation.  It is never too late for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to do the right thing.

District Attorney Ashley Rich is up for reelection.  As of now she does not have an opponent as far as I can tell at this time.  The primary election is in March 2016 and the general election is in November 2016.  During her last campaign, I asked her and her opponent about establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit.  Here is a sample of the responses from the two.  DA Rich has not demonstrated that she is interested in pursuing true justice in cases that have come before here where the person convicted may actually be innocent.  Therefore, we must endeavor to put into action what she said about petitions and citizens banding together.  I will write a new petition an post in the near future, in the meantime, you can contact DA Ashley Rich by calling (251) 574-8400, (251) 574-5000, and/or Ashley Rich – District Attorney – 251-574-6685 – ashleyrich@mobileda.org.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

www.freerodneystanberry.com and www.freerodneystanberry.com/blog

 

http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/02/20/gun-control-what-happened-when-a-gun-enthusiast-tried-to-stop-the-sale-of-weapons-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

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Prosecutorial Accountability and State Bar Responsibility-When Will it Become the Norm?

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June 2015

Prosecutorial Accountability and State Bar Responsibility-When Will it Become the Norm?

 

“”If as a prosecutor you do not disclose exculpatory evidence, your career is over.  Integrity is something that is so important because when you are a prosecutor, you not only have the duty to prosecute people and to put people in jail, but you also have a duty to uphold the law. You have the duty to do that with integrity and with the ethical standards in place… You must disclose exculpatory evidence because if you don’t, nothing good comes from it and essentially you have prosecuted someone who may not have committed the crimes because you didn’t disclose exculpatory evidence.  It is good that we have the Duke Lacrosse case as an example of what not to do.”  (From Thu, 16 Sep 2010 10:58:28 -0400 (Ashley Rich Radio Interview –http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich.mp3) Her remarks about the Duke case can be heard at around the 12 minute mark.

 Duke Lacrosse Case-A Learning Tool

District Attorney Ashley Rich is right to use the Duke Lacrosse case as a learning tool.  But let’s take this a bit further. Legislators do not shy away from tough on crime talk and prosecutors do not shy away from putting as many people who come before them in prison as possible. Oftentimes, when a particularly heinous crime takes place, legislation is named after the victim as a reminder that society cares about this issue and will prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law.  While the world was watching the accusations against the Duke Lacrosse players and as the North Carolina State Bar was preparing sanctions against Michael Nifong, the prosecutor in the Duke case, what if a member of the state legislature and even a member of Congress as federal prosecutors aren’t immune to prosecutorial misconduct as we’ve seen via some great work by the Washington Post’s Spencer Hsu (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/convicted-defendants-left-uninformed-of-forensic-flaws-found-by-justice-dept/2012/04/16/gIQAWTcgMT_story.html) passed legislation to substantially address prosecutorial misconduct?  While the public was outraged over Nifong’s work, bills should have been flying all over the place to send a message to prosecutors that prosecutorial misconduct will not be tolerated.  What if  State Bar Associations started looking more closely at the work of prosecutors based on judicial rulings that overturned cases and started making examples of prosecutors following the Duke Lacrosse case?  Then, possibly, we could say that District Attorney Ashley Rich and others intimately understood the Duke Lacrosse case as “an example of what not to do.” When one looks at the prosecution of William Ziegler, for example, one sees an Assistant District Attorney who worked alongside  DA Ashley Rich for many, many years, and the silence of Rich after his case was overturned, one wonders exactly what did she learn not to do.  So what if District Attorneys around the country who engaged in prosecutorial misconduct were identified by State Bar Associations and, subsequently sanctioned? Would that mean that today, perhaps a prosecutor would not withhold evidence that a defendant is innocent? Prosecutors have a lot of power in our judicial system and State Bar Associations aren’t really going to police their own to the extent necessary to prevent prosecutorial and ethical misconduct.  So let me get out of fantasy land and discuss the significance of the actions of the Texas State Bar Association in the Mike Morton and Anthony Graves cases. Can you imagine the “Michael Nfong Prosecutorial Accountability Act” that would serve as a warning and as a reminder for prosecutors who ignore evidence of innocence so that they can get a conviction?

 

When Texas Gets it Right-Again 

Well, in June 2015, we learned that Charles Sebesta, a former District Attorney in Burleson County (Texas), was stripped of his law license and disbarred by the State Bar in Texas for sentencing Anthony Graves to prison for crimes he did not commit.  Anthony Graves spent nearly 2 decades in prison, including 16 years in solitary confinement and 12 years on death row. His moving, chilling, and sad experiences on death row can be read and viewed here (http://time.com/3915168/solitary-confinement/?xid=tcoshare and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WAGnK6tyYs)  This is the second time in two years that a (former) district attorney in Texas had been disbarred for their role in a wrongful conviction. The first one during this two year period was Ken Anderson who prosecuted Michael Morton.  Morton spent nearly 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. And if you ask me, I think Anderson’s successor John Bradley (http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/why-john-bradley-lost) should come under scrutiny for he not only  spent years blocking DNA testing that could have cleared Morton years before his exoneration took place, but he openly mocked Morton for his claims of innocence.  From the Texas Monthly:

A widely-read local blog, the Wilco Watchdog, relentlessly dissected Bradley’s missteps in the case:

Bradley mocked Mr. Morton’s claim that DNA testing on the bandana and other items could possibly be linked, in Mr. Bradley’s words, to “a mystery killer”… Bradley derided Michael Morton’s request to test the evidence in light of the unsolved case as “silly,” and he told Rick Casey of the Houston Chronicle that Morton was “grasping at straws” by refusing to give up his quest for DNA testing. http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/why-john-bradley-lost/page/0/1

Bradley would be defeated in a 2012 primary election by Jana Duty and wrongful convictions would be a main part of the campaign. The family of the victim of the individual who actually committed the crimes for which Morton served 24 yrs of his life in prison, was in opposition to Bradley for if Anderson had done his due diligence with the prosecution of Michael Morton, the actual culprit would not have gone on to commit a brutal rape and murder.  It is a rare occasion that a prosecutor is held accountable for his/her actions.  It is also rare that the headlines when this does occur last beyond a day or two.  How many of you have seen a headline about Anthony Graves’ prosecutor being disbarred? It took place during the week when the media was focused on the Rachel Dolezal story. When the Texas State Bar disbarred Charles Sebesta, it should be a reason for media outlets to use this as a means to inquire about the practices of District Attorneys within their respective localities.  This year we also learned that the Texas State Bar has accused the prosecutor in Cameron Todd Willingham’s case (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/03/cameron_todd_willingham_prosecutor_john_jackson_charges_corrupt_prosecution.html).  Willingham was executed by the State of Texas in 2004.  Life is too short for innocent people to be sent to prisons while prosecutors who send them to prison use the convictions as a building block to get reelected and, in some cases, promoted to a judgeship. Willingham’s life was cut short by the State after a prosecutor, John H. Jackson, apparently worked to get a conviction at all cost at the expense of pursuing actual justice. Consider this:

 

“What’s perhaps more sickening than the neglected forensic evidence in this case is the other work that Jackson, the prosecuting attorney, did to win a conviction and see that Willingham’s every appeal was denied. These efforts include allegedly coercing and paying off a jailhouse informant to testify that Willingham had confessed to him, lying to the jury about whether the informant had been offered any benefits in exchange for his testimony, and withholding the informant’s recantation while Willingham sat on death row. Or, as the Marshall Project, which has been reporting on Jackson’s alleged misdeeds for the past year, described the state bar’s accusations: “obstruction of justice, making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense.”” http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/03/cameron_todd_willingham_prosecutor_john_jackson_charges_corrupt_prosecution.html

Prosecutor John H. Jackson will repeat the mantra of so many district attorneys who handled wrongful convictions, and that is nothing was done wrong. And even though the Texas State Bar has filed misconduct charges against Jackson, the punishment will also be a slap on the wrist, while Willingham’s family has to live with his execution by the hands of the state, resulting from the work on John H. Jackson. And, if Willingham is innocent, the victim’s family doesn’t receive closure.

Years of waiting for Justice

Collectively, Michael Morton and Anthony Graves spent a total of 40 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.  This doesn’t include the arrest date, trial date, and conviction date.  40 years!!!!  During their years in prison, their prosecutors went on to have productive careers; Ken Anderson even went on to serve as a judge.  Imagine spending these years in prison wondering how are prosecutors able to blatantly ignore, withhold, suppress evidence that proved that you were innocent.  While you’re sitting in prison wondering how can the system be so messed up, the people playing a role in keeping the system messed up are rewarded.  In addition to his exoneration, Michael Morton was able to see his prosecutor get arrested and disbarred. Well, this must have been a great feeling knowing that the system recognized that prosecutors should not have the power to steal an innocent person’s life, but justice came in the form of a 10 day jail sentence for Anderson, for which he only served a fraction of that and, again, this is after he’d spent over two decades as a judge. Ken Anderson was able to build wealth, prestige and prepare for the next generation.  There is no mention as to whether or not he has to contribute some of his pension to the State to help in the compensation of those wrongfully convicted. So, in the end, he was able to build a career, take responsibility of what was done in the Morton’s case by way of disbarment (he was now retired) and a few days in jail. If that is the punishment prosecutors can expect, there is no deterrent factor. So engage in prosecutorial misconduct today and 30 years from now, you MAY be held accountable by having your law license taken away after you’ve concluded your career of practicing law. In the meantime, those who are wrongfully convicted often see their families dissolved (Michael Morton not only lost his wife to a brutal crime for which he was accused, but his own son changed his name on his 18th birthday because he (the son) trusted the prosecutor and the system to the extent that he thought his father was guilty. Those who are wrongfully convicted have to fight for compensation upon their exoneration (for those who actually are exoneration).  While one cannot put a dollar amount on the years lost to incarceration, one can work harder to prevent wrongful convictions so that the wrongfully convicted won’t have to put their lives on hold languishing in a prison, suffering through the entire ordeal.

In Alabama, Anthony Ray Hinton was recently released from death row after serving nearly three decades of his life in prison.  Although it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime, he was arrested, convicted, and made his home on Alabama’s death row for three decades.  Here is a paragraph about his case from the Equal Justice Initiative, a group that freed Hinton from death row:

“In 1985, two Birmingham area fast-food restaurants were robbed and the managers, John Davidson and Thomas Wayne Vason, were fatally shot. There were no eyewitnesses or fingerprint evidence; police had no suspects and pressure to solve the murders grew as similar crimes continued. On July 25, 1985, a restaurant in Bessemer was robbed and the manager was shot but not seriously wounded. Anthony Hinton was arrested after the manager identified him from a photo lineup, even though he was working in a locked warehouse fifteen miles away at the time of the crime. Police seized an old revolver belonging to Mr. Hinton’s mother, and state firearm examiners said that was the gun used in all three crimes. The prosecutor—who had a documented history of racial bias and said he could tell Mr. Hinton was guilty and “evil” solely from his appearance—told the court that its experts’ asserted match between Mrs. Hinton’s gun and the bullets from all three crimes was the only evidence linking Mr. Hinton to the Davidson and Vason murders.” http://www.eji.org/deathpenalty/innocence/hinton

The prosecutor, given what you see above, said he was guilty and evil solely from his appearance. Where is the Alabama State Bar’s press release about this case? Will they have a special edition of “The Alabama Lawyer” devoted to prosecutorial responsibility?  The Innocence Project has been responsible for 330 DNA exonerations since the project has come into existence.  While not all of the exonerations may have been about prosecutorial misconduct, they do have a link entitled government misconduct that provides some insight into practices the government, read prosecutors, have engaged in to get a wrongful conviction, and it highlights Michael Morton’s case (http://www.innocenceproject.org/)

Can the Media Help?

There has been some really good investigative journalism in the area of wrongful convictions. One of my favorites was an investigative article written by Beth Schwartzapfel entitled “No Country for Innocent Men” about the Timothy Cole case http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/tim-cole-rick-perry.  Cole would eventually be exonerated, but not before his untimely death 13 years into his prison sentence from a health related issue. He died in prison. He was in his 20s when he entered prison and in his 30s when he died in prison. He didn’t live to see his exoneration. But he did live through those agonizing years in prison trying to understand how law enforcement was able to get a witness to identify him as the perpetrator.  Cole cried when he was convicted, as you can imagine.  The Texas State Legislator named a bill after him, “The Timothy Cole Act” which is designed to help those who are wrongfully convicted and the state of Texas established the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions to study the causes of wrongful convictions (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/tim-cole-rick-perry).  But before Beth’s article, there was media attention paid to Cole’s case once it became evident that Texas convicted another innocent man.  Investigative journalists have written important pieces about wrongful convictions.  But what is needed is additional scrutiny of District Attorney’s when it becomes evident that the person’s conviction should not have happened in the first place.  So it is not enough for Anthony Ray Hinton, for example, to be exonerated, rather, the media need to engage in serious inquiry into the District Attorney’s that put them there.  Local news publications have to continue with the follow-up- meaning that when there are cases that they’ve covered that are overturned, and they see similarities with cases that are not overturned, they should ask and investigate the follow-up question, what is the professional standard of ethics, how and how often do District Attorneys inform their Assistant District Attorneys about standards, such as not withholding exculpatory evidence, and how seriously does the State Bar take these matters.  Following the News & Observer’s investigative report on cases covered by former Durham County, DA Tracey Cline (yes, the same office that Michael Nifong headed), they included an article about professional codes of conduct.  You can see the articles entitled “Twisted Truth”:  http://www.newsobserver.com/news/special-reports/twisted-truth/ Three years later, Cline has been suspended for five years for complaints made about her handling of several case (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/durham-county/article23179362.html) . Again, what if newspapers around the country engaged in these investigative reports by not only focusing on the representation of the inmate, or lack thereof,  and the role of the judge, but by looking at a broader view of how prosecutors fail. There seems to be a Teflon effect when it comes to prosecutors who engage in unethical practices to get a wrongful conviction.  Staying in North Carolina, Governor McCrory recently pardoned Henry McCullom and his step-brother Leon Brown. Both served nearly 31 years in prison for crimes they did not commit, a combined total of more than 60 years. They were teenagers with mental deficiencies when convicted.  Not long after their arrest,  then District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt of Robeson County, North Carolina, convicted the person who actually committed the crimes for which McCullum and Brown were accused (the person was convicted for another crime, but the similarities were such that it would have been obvious to a prosecutor that that man was guilty for both).  But, I suppose seeing that he got three convictions for the price of one, he was silent on what he knew in terms of the actual culprits guilt in committing the crimes for which McCullom and Brown were punished. Britt, once known as America’s deadliest DA for the number of death row convictions he had under his belt, continues to deny that he did anything wrong (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/special-reports/twisted-truth/). And because McCullom and Brown did not play Lacrosse at Duke University, you probably hadn’t heard his (Britt’s) name until now.  I am not sure if there are efforts by the North Carolina State Bar to disbar him (as he served as a district attorney and judge), but is it not interesting that two prosecutors out of Durham, North Carolina were disbarred and I have yet to see reports that the North Carolina State Bar is pursuing an inquiry into Britt or of the several exonerations seen in North Carolina in recent years, some thanks to the work of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. To be fair, there has to be a grievance filed, but I would like to see the amount of print dedicated to Tracey Cline and Michael Nifong devoted to these others cases as well where prosecutorial misconduct sent people to prison for years, decades, even. My point in bringing up the Raleigh News & Observer’s  “Twisted Truth” series and sharing with you the links is that the series they did was an attempt to hold a prosecutor accountable, they were very thorough, offering you information about the grievances filed by the State Bar, interviews with people who had something to add about Cline’s work, and so on.  Imagine if the media, even those outlets that allowed for investigative pieces about wrongful convictions to be covered in their publications would do this type of work in an effort to hold prosecutors accountable? We may actually get that Michael Nifong Prosecutorial Responsibility Act. Consider this:

Anthony Graves- 16 years in prison- (convicted in 1994–prosecutor disbarred in 2015 )

Michael Morton- 24 years in prison (convicted in 1987- prosecutor disbarred in 2013)

Anthony Ray Hinton- 30 years in prison, prosecutor not disbarred

Henry McCollom- 31 years in prison, prosecutor not disbarred

Leon Brown- 31 years in prison, prosecutor not disbarred

Timothy Cole- died in prison on his 13th year of a prison sentence, prosecutor not disbarred

Greg Taylor- 17 years in prison, prosecutor not disbarred

Darrel Hunt- 19 years in prison, prosecutor not disbarred

Duke Lacrosse players- 0 years in prison (accused in 2006, prosecutor disbarred in 2007, NC Attorney General Apology- 2007)

What message does this send? Again, I am not trying to make an issue of the players accused of a crime, rather, I am trying to understand why in this case, possibly the first and only in history, does a prosecutor get disbarred so quickly over allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. What is different between that case and the countless others where we see prosecutors engaging in misconduct? Why is it that Mobile District Attorney can discuss lessons to be learned from the Duke Lacrosse case, but not from any number of other cases?  Getting back to the Anthony Graves case, consider this from the Texas Monthly in an article written by Pamela Colloff:

 

“In a sweeping ruling released this morning, the bar found that Sebesta had violated no fewer than five tenets of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including:

3.03(a)(l ): “A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a tribunal.”

3.03(a)(5): “A lawyer shall not knowingly offer or use evidence that the lawyer knows to be false.”

3.09(d): “A prosecutor in a criminal case shall make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense…”

8.04(a)(l): “A lawyer shall not violate these rules, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another…”

8.04(a)(3): “A lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

When I reached Graves in Houston this morning, he expressed his gratitude to the bar for ensuring that Sebesta had finally faced consequences for his actions. “I never thought that a young, African-American man from the projects could file a grievance against a powerful, white DA in Texas and win,” he said.

But he cautioned that a victory in his case alone was not enough. “I think this is a great first step,” he said. “But a lot of people in Washington and Burleson counties were prosecuted and convicted by Charles Sebesta, and some of them are still behind bars. All of those cases need to be examined, too.”

Was disbarment a sufficient punishment for the man who had sent him to death row, I asked? “I think he should be brought before a court of law to answer to charges of attempted murder,” Graves said.”  http://www.texasmonthly.com/daily-post/ex-da-who-sent-exoneree-anthony-graves-death-row-disbarred End Quote.

Tell an individual who is a victim of prosecutorial misconduct that District Attorneys should continue on the path of not being held accountable for their actions. District Attorneys run on a tough on crime platform, but remain silent when prosecutors engage in what can be considered criminal acts.  Graves stated that his prosecutor should be brought up on an attempted murder charge.  Timothy Cole died in prison. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by the State of Texas (the Texas State Bar is in the process of investigating prosecutor misconduct charges on his prosecutor-John H. Jackson http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/03/cameron_todd_willingham_prosecutor_john_jackson_charges_corrupt_prosecution.html , Troy Davis was executed, and the list goes on.  How long will prosecutors be able to continue to sentence innocent people to prison without being held accountable? People may object to the notion that some of the aforementioned people are innocent, but one can’t object to the documented prosecutorial misconduct, including not disclosing evidence that demonstrate that they person may be innocent. Once a prosecutor has a theory, evidence to the contrary is difficult for them to share.  Again, more than 90 percent of prosecutors and the cases they prosecute are likely good and straight by the book cases, but when they aren’t, accountability should be pursued, as quickly as it was in the Duke Lacrosse case.  We dearly need prosecutors, but we need District Attorneys to set standards and safeguards within their respective offices to ensure that innocent people are not convicted. Once prosecutors get a conviction, even when it confronted with the likely innocent of the person convicted, they spend so much time ensuring that the person remains in prison.  This perpetuates a travesty of justice and when there is no accountability, the system remains the same.

District Attorney Ashley Rich and the Mobile District Attorney’s Office

I’ve written many times about the Mobile District Attorney’s Office as I have a cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry , who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. He is in his 18th year of prison. But I’ve also written about other cases, including William Ziegler’s case, a man who spent 13 years on death row for crimes he likely did not commit.  He was granted a new trial and he was on the verge of being released, but before he could be released, he had to take a plea deal accepting some fault in the crime- a crime for which he spent 13 years on death row.  This is what I included in a previous blog:

“As a condition of his release on April 16th, 2015, 39 year old William Ziegler, who spent 13 years on death row and 15 years and 50 days in prison for a brutal crime that he likely did not commit, had to say that he was guilty of “aiding and abetting murder”. But as a condition to continue to prosecute cases, the prosecutor in his case, Mobile Chief Assistant District Attorney Deborah Tillman, will not have to say that she withheld exculpatory evidence and/or acknowledge any prosecutorial misconduct that led to Zielger spending 13 years of his life on death row.  No one in the media will pursue this question, and after a day or two,  Ziegler’s case will receive little coverage.  At what point will prosecutors be held accountable for their actions?  As I state here  and many, many times, prosecutors are needed, necessary, important, and do what is right most of the time, at least that is what we have to believe as citizens who need them to pursue justice and to help to protect communities. But when they step out of that cone of trust by engaging in unethical practices, it is important for the action to be acknowledged, for reforms to take place.  But the response to Ziegler’s case from the Mobile District Attorney’s Office has been that we have done nothing wrong. Why aren’t prosecutors in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office and/or representatives of the state asked to apologize, to be accountable, or to discuss what will be done to avoid prosecutorial misconduct in the future?” http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/04/23/who-will-hold-prosecutors-accountable-for-their-actions-the-case-of-william-j-ziegler/

District Attorney Ashley Rich, as mentioned, has been silent on the judicial ruling in this case. While the local media engaged in investigative reports about Ziegler’s case, they haven’t demanded that Rich address key issues with her office as it relates to the Ziegler case. This is a case that questions the integrity of the system.  While the prosecutions I cited earlier took place prior to the Michael NiFong/Duke Lacrosse case, is there any doubt that as you read this that there is another Michael Morton, Anthony Graves, Rodney K. Stanberry being prosecuted today using the same practices cited by the Texas Bar?  There are no body cameras on prosecutors as they make a decision to keep or discard evidence, as they travel from hundreds of miles to interview a suspect in a prison but claim that no notes were taken as was the case with Rodney K. Stanberry, there are no body cameras on prosecutors as they come face to face with someone who actually committed the crime for which they convicted an innocent person, or as they come face to face with a victim of a crime that could have been spared if prosecutors did the right thing the first time around.  There are no body cameras to capture prosecutors at their worst, so we will once again see the headlines about someone exonerated, but then move on to the next trending story.  And with this, there will be continued frustration with the system, but with no true reforms.  What say you Alabama State Bar? Or State Bars around the nation for that matter.  District Attorney Ashley Rich is up for reelection and she will be reelected, as will prosecutors around the nation, and when asked about wrongful convictions, they will say We did nothing wrong.  And so it goes.

Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

Articles of Interest:

For an Investigative Report on the case of Rodney K. Stanberry- http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

For an article about how District Attorney Ashley Rich’s Office  responded to Rodney K. Stanberry’s case- http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/ 

Three Blogs of Interest:

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/08/06/can-a-person-be-two-places-at-once-the-wrongful-conviction-of-rodney-k-stanberry-2/

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/02/20/gun-control-what-happened-when-a-gun-enthusiast-tried-to-stop-the-sale-of-weapons-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/08/11/the-prosecutor-and-the-criminal/

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46- An innocent man celebrates his 46th birthday in prison. Why is Justice so Hard to Come by for the Innocent and Incarcerated?

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46- An innocent man celebrates his 46th birthday in prison. Why is Justice so Hard to Come by for the Innocent and Incarcerated?

On Monday, April 27th, 2015, Rodney K. Stanberry will be 46 years old.  He began his prison sentence in 1997 for crimes he did not commit.  His son, just a few months old when Rodney entered prison, is about to graduate from high school in May. Just as Rodney was not able to attend his mother’s funeral, attend his father’s 80th birthday gathering, he will be unable to attend his son’s high school graduation.  Rodney has made it a point to play an important role in his son’s life.  He loves his son dearly, just as he loves his parents who had been married for as long as he has been alive. His mother died on September 12, 2012, his father turned 80 on February 12, 2014 and his son will be graduating on May 21, 2015.  All of which are significant dates, along with many others, that an innocent man must endure because the system has failed to correct itself.

For years as I was advocating for Rodney’s freedom, the letters that we exchanged that hurt me the most were the ones in which he expressed his desire to be a good parent to his son. He did all that he could from the confinement of his unjust incarceration.  Here is an excerpt from one of my previous blogs:

“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….”

 

The next part I want to ask if it would be ok to post. It would break your heart. Imagine what a son who wants to be with his dad so much would say. The system truly has an impact on family and friends. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/01/01/a-relentless-pursuit-of-justice-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/”

 

To be innocent and incarcerated is, in a sense, a dual punishment.  One has to helplessly mark the days left in one’s sentence and the days that are considered sacred and milestones in the lives of loved ones.  As Rodney wakes up to a 46th birthday in prison, my wish for him is for the powers that be allow him to attend his son’s graduation, and that the powers that be correct his wrongful conviction. Rodney was denied parole in 2013, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles refuses to allow him to come up for a parole date even as he meets the criteria of one should be granted parole.  Further, the parole board does not provide a reason for parole denial and for why he cannot come up for parole again 18 months after he was denied- Two weeks ago, as Rodney reached his 18th month after the 2013 parole denial I made a request for a new parole date and that request was denied, without reason.

Rodney believed in the system from the day he discovered that a brutal crime had been committed, he went to the Prichard Police, for which they said he was too helpful, he called a detective in New York to tell them to look for two people who would be traveling from Alabama for they were involved in a crime, but the Prichard Police were not interested in cooperating with the NY detective, and even the person who confessed to the crime, exonerating Rodney, believed that the authorities knew that it was he that was involved, and not Rodney, must still be in shock, that the system convicted an innocent man (Rodney), while allowing he (Moore) and the shooter  off the hook.  It is very difficult to continue to have faith in a system that allows a prosecutor to suppress a confession, withhold exculpatory evidence, to show photos to the victim as she was recovering from a coma-leading her to identify Rodney because he was a familiar face, and to pursue a theory over the evidence, and to pursue the conviction over the truth.   But Rodney, like so many in his situation, continues to hold on to the belief that even as long as he has been incarcerated, 18 years and counting, that the system will recognize that he is innocent.  I recounted the following in previous blogs:

 

Dr. Wilmer Leon said to Rodney during this interview http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78that 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. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/06/20/freedad-to-the-fathers-who-are-wrongfully-convicted/

Happy Birthday, Rodney.  The continued moral support from family members, friends, and the many people who have learned about his case has helped to sustain him.  We need for district attorneys such as Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich to pursue truth and justice in these cases. Justice is never served when the innocent person is convicted.  By the same token, talking about the importance of protecting the integrity of the system, as DA Rich said when she was running for office, is not the same as actually doing what few prosecutors have done, and that is to seek justice and the truth, even if it means that a conviction will be overturned.  There are district attorneys who took an active role in releasing innocent people.  What District Attorney Ashley Rich said as she was running for office doesn’t seem to comport with her actions as District Attorney. Please read this blog about how prosecutors handled William Ziegler’s case, as an example. And as a reminder, this is what she said when she ran for office:

“”If as a prosecutor you do not disclose exculpatory evidence, your career is over.  Integrity is something that is so important because when you are a prosecutor, you not only have the duty to prosecute people and to put people in jail, but you also have a duty to uphold the law. You have the duty to do that with integrity and with the ethical standards in place… You must disclose exculpatory evidence because if you don’t, nothing good comes from it and essentially you have prosecuted someone who may not have committed the crimes because you didn’t disclose exculpatory evidence.  It is good that we have the Duke LaCrosse case as an example of what not to do.”  (From Thu, 16 Sep 2010 10:58:28 -0400 (Ashley Rich Radio Interview -http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich.mp3Her remarks about the Duke case can be heard at around the 12 minute mark. 

Again, justice is never served when the innocent are convicted.  And saying things such as “If as a prosecutor you do not disclose exculpatory evidence, your career is over….” and talking about one’s duty as a prosecutor is so much different than actually standing by those words when you are the District attorney.

 

Sincerely,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

PS

If you watched the CBS show Battle Creek on April 26th, you saw them tackle a wrongful conviction last night.  A young man was arrested and while in jail, he came across the man convicted of taking the lives of his parents. The young man was angry, as you can imagine, and dreamed of the day he met this person for he imagined what he would do.  Instead, as he heard the individual explain that he was innocent, that the person did not get parole because he refused to say that he was guilty and remorseful for something he did not do, the young man went to his friend in law enforcement (who happened to be an FBI agent on assignment in Battle Creek) and asked for him to explore the truth. He asked the person to not tell his mother, who served as Police Chief of the Battle Creek Police Department as she would not understand why he needed to know the truth, nor would she pursue reopening the case.  There were three elements of interest: 1) a young man questioning what the people in law enforcement who claimed to be looking out for his best interests told him for years, 2) an inmate, after 17 years in prison, maintaining his innocence, even as he appears before the parole board, 3) the need for actual closure for the young man and 4) in the episode the District Attorney’s Office was not featured as in real life, the District Attorney would have denied, denied, denied that anyone other than the person they convicted was the guilty culprit, even in the face of evidence that shows differently. It turns out that the young man was right to question what he was told as it led to the release of an innocent man.  He had to step back and actually ask why would a man maintain his innocence and refuse to say he is guilty so as to have a better chance of getting out of jail.  He had to take a tough discovery of his own, and in doing so, he found the closure that he never really had. Too often, that is the stuff television shows and movies are made of. I applaud Battle Creek for tackling the issue. Here is the Battle Creek episode (http://www.cbs.com/shows/battle-creek/video/_8BcAWLGYDLArT47cp7nl_NYLoVa6q4Y/battle-creek-old-wounds/)

 

Please read: http://bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

http://yourblackworld.net/2012/11/14/black-community-rallies-to-re-open-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/04/28/44-an-innocent-man-celebrates-his-44th-birthday-in-prison-why/

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/08/06/can-a-person-be-two-places-at-once-the-wrongful-conviction-of-rodney-k-stanberry-2/

http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/02/20/gun-control-what-happened-when-a-gun-enthusiast-tried-to-stop-the-sale-of-weapons-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

 

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When Will Prosecutors Be Held Accountable for Their Actions- The Case of William J. Ziegler

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April 23, 2015

Why Aren’t Prosecutors Held Accountable for Their Actions-The Case of William J. Ziegler

I took that deal for one reason and one reason only and that was to go home,” said Ziegler as he was released.  “I maintain my innocence to this day.” http://www.wkrg.com/story/28823742/former-death-row-inmate-set-to-be-freed

As a condition of his release on April 16th, 2015, 39 year old William Ziegler, who spent 13 years on death row and 15 years and 50 days in prison for a brutal crime that he likely did not commit, had to say that he was guilty of “aiding and abetting murder”. But as a condition to continue to prosecute cases, the prosecutor in his case, Mobile Chief Assistant District Attorney Deborah Tillman, will not have to say that she withheld exculpatory evidence and/or acknowledge any prosecutorial misconduct that led to Zielger spending 13 years of his life on death row.  No one in the media will pursue this question, and after a day or two,  Ziegler’s case will receive little coverage.  At what point will prosecutors be held accountable for their actions?  As I state here  and many, many times, prosecutors are needed, necessary, important, and do what is right most of the time, at least that is what we have to believe as citizens who need them to pursue justice and to help to protect communities. But when they step out of that cone of trust by engaging in unethical practices, it is important for the action to be acknowledged, for reforms to take place.  But the response to Ziegler’s case from the Mobile District Attorney’s Office has been that we have done nothing wrong. Why aren’t prosecutors in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office and/or representatives of the state asked to apologize, to be accountable, or to discuss what will be done to avoid prosecutorial misconduct in the future?

The Mobile Press Register (al.com/mobile) and Lagniappe Mobile have written many articles on the William Ziegler case. Reporters such as Brendan Kirby and Gabe Tynes of these publications have taken the reader into the details of the Ziegler case, I recommend that you read their respective publications and reports on this case.  Ziegler has had many high powered attorneys who practice in Mobile, as well as attorneys at a New York based law firm, Sydney Austin LLP.  Unlike his original attorney who failed him ( see http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/how_the_system_failed_william.html and http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=4371) Ziegler’s current attorneys were able to bring about justice.  From an article in Lagniappe from April 2011:

“But Yazdi’s handling of Ziegler’s defense would later lead to a hearing to determine if the attorney had so poorly prepared that his client’s constitutional rights were violated.
“This approach is not strategic, it’s not informed, it’s incoherent, it’s inconsistent. It’s not what attorneys are supposed to do, and it falls well below the standard of what is required of reasonably effective counsel,” a petitioner would later say during a review of Yazdi’s handling of this brutal murder trial.” http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=4371)

In his Rule 32 appeal, Ziegler had a chance to experience what it was like to have attorneys fighting on his behalf, who cared about him, and who, ultimately, cared about the pursuit of justice. These attorneys used the tools that the system respects to free Ziegler.  The system does not respond to “moralsuasion,” and far too many District Attorneys do not care about an inmate’s innocence after the jury convicts the person. Truth becomes a casualty of war in this convict at all cost game they play, and one equalizer is the attorney, such as the attorneys on Ziegler’s appellate team, willing to devote time and money to right a wrong.  Many District Attorneys won’t even establish Conviction Integrity Units (http://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2014/12/11/center-for-prosecutor-integrity-surveys-rise-of-conviction-integrity-units/ and http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2014/03/27/mobile-police-department-establishes-special-committee-why-cant-mobile-district-attorneys-office-establish-a-conviction-integrity-unit/) because, well, far too many are not interested in righting a wrong, rather, they are more interested in upholding a conviction at all costs, and hoping they will never get caught red-handed in cases where prosecutorial misconduct led to the conviction of innocent people.  Another potential equalizer to the “convict at all costs” mentality are the local publications that use the tools they have to shed the light on how easy it is to get a wrongful conviction.

“I took that deal for one reason and one reason only and that was to go home,” said Ziegler as he was released.  “I maintain my innocence to this day.”  http://www.wkrg.com/story/28823742/former-death-row-inmate-set-to-be-freed

These are the words spoken by William John Ziegler as he faced reporters following his release.  This plea, like an Alford plea, is a way that the State can avoid culpability for those actions. It is a way to say to the public that he may not committed this crime, but is he truly innocent. We were just protecting you from this criminal. But who protects the public from prosecutors who pursue theories and not evidence in an effort to get the conviction? Who protects the public when prosecutors have exculpatory evidence  but choose to not disclose it because it does not fit their theory? Who protects the integrity of the system when innocent people are sent to prison? We should not feel comfortable in this country when we see a steady stream of headlines about people serving 10, 20, 30, and 40 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Alabama just witnessed another man released from death row, Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on death row. That should shock us to the core.  While Ziegler had to take a plea deal as a condition of his release, the prosecutor in his case will not have to apologize for her actions that led to his being placed on death row.  Even if she thought he aided and abetted the individuals responsible for the death of the 19 year old victim, her pursuit of a capital murder calls into question of what did she know and when did she know it, but beyond that, making a decision to pursue a case knowing that the evidence did not support his involvement in the brutal crime that was committed. Chief Assistant District Attorney Tillman is quoted in an article published in Lagniappe in 2012 that Ziegler should have taken the plea like the others.  Here is how it is written in Lagniappe:

Tillman said Judge Kendall, who heard Ziegler’s case and ultimately upheld the jury’s death penalty recommendation, was known as a “very fair” judge. She also said Ziegler was offered a plea deal similar to his co-defendants, but he was the only one who rejected it.

 

“I respect her right as a judge to issue the ruling, but I and this office strongly disagree with it,” Tillman said. “I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and I know that I did not do anything wrong in terms of prosecutorial misconduct.”            http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5961&sid=1

Was the capital murder charge a way to force him to take a plea in 2001? He maintained his innocence then and now, he did not take the plea in 2001 because he likely held on to the belief that the jury had to see through the state’s deception. He took a plea in 2015 because he realizes that the deck is stacked against people who maintain their innocence, that the “House”, in the end, always wins.  It is unfortunate that our system teaches us these harsh lessons and the price William Ziegler had to pay to learn this was 13 years on death row.   But because district attorneys are rarely prosecuted for their actions, we won’t witness any charges against a prosecutor that may result in said prosecutor taking a plea deal.

As I wrote in a previous blog:

“William Ziegler’s retrial will take place later this year. While the Attorney General of Alabama will prosecute the case, you will see what the Mobile District Attorney’s Office did to get this conviction and the callous attitude they have with regard to Judge Sarah Stewart’s 218 findings/ruling about his case. You will get tremendous insight into how the Mobile District Attorney’s Office can convict innocent people. In the Ziegler case, the state’s theory about where the victim’s body was found was incorrect and the evidence shows it and Judge Stewart criticized from the number of African Americans struck from the jury and, this I did not realize, one of the state’s theories (Mobile Assistant Attorney Deborah Tillman prosecuted the case and maintains that the Mobile District Attorney’s Office did nothing wrong), was that Ziegler murdered the victim because he had been called the “n-word”- the word is actually used in the transcript (see this article about the case http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/how_the_system_failed_william.html). Here is what Judge Stewart wrote in her order that also justified the need for a new trial for William Ziegler:

“183. Trial counsel’s failure to raise a Batson challenge despite prima facie

record evidence of discrimination requires reversal because the evidence demonstrates that the Mobile County District Attorney used a large number of peremptory challenges to remove African American venirepersons, engaged in little or no voir dire examination of those African American veniremembers, engaged in disparate treatment of similarly situated white and African American veniremembers, and struck veniremembers who had nothing in common other than race. The Alabama Supreme Court in Branch, 526 So. 2d 609, 622-23 (Ala. 1987), established a non-exhaustive list of evidence that can give rise to an inference of discrimination and a prima facie case under Batson. Based upon its review of the evidence at the hearing and the record evidence submitted by Ziegler, the Court finds that many of the Branch categories giving rise to an inference of discrimination existed in Ziegler’s case and would have supported a Batson challenge.

184. First, the crime for which Ziegler was charged “had racial overtones.””

Ziegler was the only non-white defendant in a capital murder trial in which the victim was white, his three co-defendants were white, and most of the State’s witnesses were white. Additionally, one of the prosecution’s theory of a motive was based on the concept that Ziegler became enraged and began striking Baker when he called Ziegler a “nigger,” which the prosecution informed the jury of during voir dire. (T. Tr. 42:15-43:18.)http://media.al.com/live/other/Ziegler%20ruling.pdf (see pages 72-74)

Why would a prosecutor use this tactic if there was no evidence indicating that it was true? Why when asked about Judge Stewart’s ruling, Assistant District Attorney Deborah Tillman continues to say: “I know that our office did not do anything improper, and I did not do anything improper,” [she said].”http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/how_the_system_failed_william.html

(The paragraphs above are quoted from this blog- http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/01/04/another-year-is-upon-us-the-fight-for-justice-must-continue/). But Tillman said she did nothing wrong from a prosecutorial misconduct.  Prosecutors don’t go on trial, so, again, we won’t be able to determine that in a court of law, but certainly Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, were she concerned with the findings in the Ziegler case, should express concern about prosecutorial misconduct in this case.

Alabama Attorney General-Forcing the Truth About Evidence

John Tyston Jr., December 7, 2010 “We will not destroy any records in this office. Never have, never will.” (From a letter written on the letterhead of the Mobile District Attorney’s Office in response to a letter from me-Artemesia Stanberry-   

From Lagniappe (April 2015) in an interview featuring two of Ziegler’s attorneys- One of the interesting things about the case, particularly after it came back for retrial, is the record that proved the state had lost or destroyed at least seven or so pieces of evidence that we would certainly contend was material. That was proven by the state itself.

The staff at Lagniappe Mobile sat down with William Ziegler and his attorneys within an hour after his release.  One of Ziegler’s attorneys (Nick Lagemann) said this:

(Lagniappe):”Let me ask you more about that evidence and your recent motion to dismiss. If it had gone to trial, would that evidence, or lack thereof, been admissible in a new trial?

 

Lagemann: The overall answer would be yes. Exactly how that would come in, I think was one of the — assuming the judge, if she did not dismiss it overall based on that motion and we went to trial, I think the judge would have been called upon to make a number of evidentiary rulings about what would come in, what would already be proven and established about the fact that they (the state) had lost or destroyed multiple pieces of evidence. One of the interesting things about the case, particularly after it came back for retrial, is the record that proved the state had lost or destroyed at least seven or so pieces of evidence that we would certainly contend was material. That was proven by the state itself.

I think you would see in our original motion there was a footnote that, for lack of a better term, we commended the Attorney General’s office for bringing that to the attention of the court. I would say that was a marked contrast to what the case was previously like when it had been handled by the District Attorney’s office. I do think the Attorney General’s office, in responding to the discovery order, I think acted wholly consistently and very professionally in bringing forward or establishing the record that showed that this evidence had been lost or destroyed. But I think to your original question, yes I think absolutely that the clothing of the victim, when it was supportive of our defense, that it had been lost or destroyed when it was in possession of the District Attorney’s office. There was an affidavit for Jay Bennett’s car that must have contained information that was totally inconsistent with the state’s theory of the crime. It has never been found in any file, in the multiple files where it should have been. That the audiotape recordings …”

Ziegler: They are still missing to this day. http://lagniappemobile.com/conviction-appeal-innocent-inmates-left-behind-interview-former-alabama-death-row-inmate-william-ziegler/?all=1

What this tells us is that if the Alabama Attorney General’s office did not have the responsibility or preparing for a new trial in the hopes of getting a new conviction, the Mobile District Attorney’s Office would not have even pretended to look for evidence that was “lost or destroyed.” They would have denied it.  As it stands, according to this article, Chief ADA Deborah Tillman and Chief Investigator Mike Morgan spent, according to Tillman, time near Christmas last year searching for the evidence (see pages 21-22 of Ziegler’s Motion to Dismiss that is embedded in this article-.  Here is specifically what prosecutors with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office stated: “In January, a team of prosecutors led by Assistant Attorney General Stephanie Billingslea told Stewart the state could no longer account for: the original affidavit filed to obtain a search warrant for Ziegler’s home and car owned by a co-defendant; any audio recordings from the interrogation of any of the witnesses who eventually pinned the crime on Ziegler; the victim’s clothing; police photographs of a car defense attorneys argue was used to transport the victim and would undermine the prosecution’s version of events; an evidence bag a witness testified at the Rule 32 hearing contained a bloody sweatshirt; a “be on the lookout” issued for the car; or any records of initial interviews with a witness who later recanted her testimony at the Rule 32 hearing.” http://lagniappemobile.com/judge-considers-motion-dismiss-capital-murder-retrial/  Tillman and Morgan could not locate these items.

What Candidate Ashley Rich said in 2010 versus her actions (or lack thereof)  

“”If as a prosecutor you do not disclose exculpatory evidence, your career is over.  Integrity is something that is so important because when you are a prosecutor, you not only have the duty to prosecute people and to put people in jail, but you also have a duty to uphold the law. You have the duty to do that with integrity and with the ethical standards in place… You must disclose exculpatory evidence because if you don’t, nothing good comes from it and essentially you have prosecuted someone who may not have committed the crimes because you didn’t disclose exculpatory evidence.  It is good that we have the Duke LaCrosse case as an example of what not to do.”  (From Thu, 16 Sep 2010 10:58:28 -0400 (Ashley Rich Radio Interview -http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich.mp3) Her remarks about the Duke case can be heard at around the 12 minute mark. 

Regardless of whether the reader believes that William Ziegler is innocent or guilty, it should be beyond problematic the way his case was prosecuted- using the N-word in front of potential jurors as a theory of why Ziegler would assist in the stabbing of an individual 100 times, withholding exculpatory evidence, and losing/destroying evidence reaches the level that candidate Rich said she was concerned about.  Nevertheless, prosecutor Tillman is the Chief Assistant District Attorney in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, and Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich will not now nor ever, in my opinion, provide anything but a united front with regard to this case.  Tillman said in articles in the past that she and her office have done nothing wrong, even the Attorney General’s Office, yes, the Office of Luther Strange, has acknowledged that the state lost or destroyed evidence. What do they care if they put William Ziegler on death row, it is the cost of doing business for them.  But they should care because the integrity of the system is very important, as candidate Ashley Rich stated when she was running to become the District Attorney. Prior to becoming District Attorney, Ashley Rich served as an assistant district attorney for 14 years under John Tyson, Jr., alongside Deborah Tillman, alongside Martha Tierney-now in private practice after decades with the Mobile District Attorney’s Office (who listened during a court proceeding but said nothing when a former DA with the office say that he travelled to New York to visit a suspect in Rikers prison but did not take notes because he was on vacation), and alongside ADA Jennifer Wright, described as Rich’s protegee in one publication, who prosecuted Toby Priest (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/11/16/reaction-to-article-in-lagniappe-about-the-toby-priest-case/) District Attorney Ashley Rich has no incentive to open up a can of worms because it may lead to an uncomfortable discussion about the practices of the Mobile District Attorney’s Office. I continue to believe that had her opponent won, his incentive would have been the pursuit of justice and accountability (Here is an exchange I had with her opponent Mark Erwin and with Ashley Rich during the campaign- 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/)

I’ve mentioned this before in this blog  “Recall that Eucellis Sullivan was asked to leave the Mobile District Attorney’s Office by District Attorney Ashley Rich. As reported by Local15 News:

“I was terminated from my job as an Asst. D.A.,” she said. Hired by John Tyson, Sullivan had spent last four years prosecuting all types of cases for the office, but LOCAL 15 News was there Thursday as she went back to clean out her desk after she says she was escorted out of the building earlier, just like the criminals she prosecuted.

“I was called into Ashley Rich’s office and they informed me that my services were no longer needed, I was told that a letter of resignation was prepared if I wanted to sign it and I declined signing the letter, I was just shocked because I wasn’t given a reason.”

This is what the District Attorney Ashely Rich told LOCAL 15 News, “Since I took office she has lost seven cases and only won two.”…..

…..”The people expect me to put criminals in jail they expect the team I put together to put people in jail she just wasn’t doing that that’s all I have to say,” Rich said. http://www.local15tv.com/news/local/story/Ousted-Asst-D-A-Says-Firing-was-Unjust-D-A/_k_jw7YebUuoBnZ-_2FUAg.cspx

As I stated earlier, former Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr. said in a letter to me that “We will not destroy any records in this office.  Never have, never will.” (Tuesday, December 7, 2010). Do you think District Attorney Ashley Rich has looked at the cases that her Chief Assistant Attorney has worked on before or after her work on the Ziegler case? Do you think that District Attorney Ashley Rich will conduct an investigation as to what happened to those 7 lost items referenced by the Alabama Attorney General? Do you think that Chief Assistant District Attorney Deborah Tillman will receive the Eucellis Sullivan treatment? Of course not.  There will not be reforms in that office until there is new leadership.  The media will not hold the office accountable.  If only reporters can express the same level of concern over how Ziegler’s original attorney represented him to how the Mobile District Attorney’s Office prosecuted him.   A former Prichard Police officer was arrested in 2013 and recently sentenced to 25 years in prison on drug charges.  His cases will be reviewed. What does it take for cases prosecuted by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to be reviewed for possible prosecutorial misconduct?

This is minor in the scheme of things, but District Attorney Ashley Rich publicly (in that she shared her concern with the media) reprimanded and disciplined an attorney who brewed his own beer before doing so was legal in Alabama .  She can muster more outrage over that than she apparently can when her office engage in conduct (misconduct) that puts a man on death row. Yes, she talked about integrity of the system and not withholding exculpatory evidence when she was a candidate for the office. John Tyson, Jr. says the office has never destroyed evidence and never will, yet, thanks to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, it is now acknowledged that evidence could not be found.  But, again, this is business as usual.  Where is the person campaigning to bring about reforms to the office? Will District Attorney Ashley Rich run unopposed during the primaries?

Back to Accountability

The Texas State Bar successfully sued Ken Anderson, prosecutor who got the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton  and are pursuing a suit regarding the Cameron Todd Willingham case, a man executed for crimes he likely did not commit.  Among Zielger’s team of attorneys included Henry A.  Callaway, a former President of the Mobile Bar Association.  He has had an intimate look into how the Mobile District Attorney’s Office prosecuted William Ziegler. He is in a position, given also his relationship with the Alabama State Bar, to encourage the Alabama State Bar to mimic the actions of the Texas State Bar in the Michael Morton case.  But it likely won’t happen, as Callaway was recently appointed to serve as a federal bankruptcy attorney, a 14 year appointment (http://www.handarendall.com/news_detail.php?news=209).  And so the beat goes on.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

Just to reiterate the actions and practices that are apparently acceptable By District Attorney Ashley Rich, here is how the Equal Justice Initiative puts it:

“Last year, an Alabama appeals court ruled that Mr. Ziegler, who was sentenced to death in Mobile County in 2003, must be given a new trial because prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that a key witness falsely identified Mr. Ziegler as the man who threatened to kill the victim. The prosecution also failed to turn over evidence showing the killing happened in a car belonging to the State’s only eyewitness — not in the woods, as the witness claimed and the State contended at trial.”http://www.eji.org/node/1072  End Quote. But Chief Assistant District Attorney Deborah Tillman says she did nothing wrong.  And so it goes.

 

 

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Rodney K. Stanberry- Innocent and Incarcerated, 18 years and Counting

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March 24th, 2015

Rodney K. Stanberry- Innocent and Incarcerated, 18 years and Counting

Today, March 24th, marks the 18th year that Rodney K. Stanberry has spent in prison for crimes he did not commit.  He is now beginning his 19th year in prison, with a scheduled release date of March 2017.  Imagine what it is like to spend 18 years in prison, imagine spending 18 years in prison as an innocent man.  It is the epitome of injustice. The sad reality is that in our judicial system, once one is convicted, the chance of obtaining freedom from a wrongful conviction is very high. It is estimated that between 2.3% to 5 % of prisoners are innocent. According to the webpage for the Innocence Project, even if 1% of all prisoners are innocent, that would mean that approximately 20,000 prisoners are innocent (http://www.innocenceproject.org/faqs/how-many-innocent-people-are-there-in-prison) also see http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/07/22/a-step-in-the-right-direction-giving-the-wrongfully-convicted-a-chance-at-justice/.   However, the number exonerated has not come even close to the approximate number of wrongful convictions.

Far too many district attorneys are more concerned with upholding a conviction than they are with seeking the truth. It was encouraging when the district attorney in Glenn Ford’s case came forward and apologized for his and his office’s role in convicting an innocent man. Here is a quote from Attorney Marty Stroud, III who prosecuted Glenn Ford. It is a must read as he takes responsibility for his actions and chastises the state for its attempt to deny Ford compensation.  Unfortunately, Ford spent 30 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. To quote from Stroud’s editorial:

“Glenn Ford should be completely compensated to every extent possible because of the flaws of a system that effectively destroyed his life. The audacity of the state’s effort to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered in the name of Louisiana justice is appalling…..

There was no technicality here. Crafty lawyering did not secure the release of a criminal. Mr. Ford spent 30 years of his life in a small, dingy cell. His surroundings were dire. Lighting was poor, heating and cooling were almost non-existent, food bordered on the uneatable. Nobody wanted to be accused of “coddling” a death row inmate.

But Mr. Ford never gave up. He continued the fight for his innocence. And it finally paid off.

Pursuant to the review and investigation of cold homicide cases, investigators uncovered evidence that exonerated Mr. Ford. Indeed, this evidence was so strong that had it been disclosed during of the investigation there would not have been sufficient evidence to even arrest Mr. Ford!

And yet, despite this grave injustice, the state does not accept any responsibility for the damage suffered by one of its citizens. The bureaucratic response appears to be that nobody did anything intentionally wrong, thus the state has no responsibility. This is nonsensical. Explain that position to Mr. Ford and his family. Facts are stubborn things, they do not go away.”” http://www.shreveporttimes.com/longform/opinion/readers/2015/03/20/lead-prosecutor-offers-apology-in-the-case-of-exonerated-death-row-inmate-glenn-ford/25049063/

If only more prosecutors came forward to talk about a wrongful conviction in an honest way. It was also encouraging to read that the Texas State Bar has “filed a formal accusation of misconduct against the county prosecutor who convicted Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three young daughters.” https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/03/18/willingham-prosecutor-accused-of-misconduct  If Willingham is, indeed, innocent, he will not be able to experience what it feels like to be exonerated for the State of Texas executed him. Like college student Timothy Cole, who died in prison during the 13th year of his incarceration, Willingham and so many others who languished in prison hoping that the system would correct itself got the ultimate sentence, death- for Cole, it was death via an asthma attack in prison and for Willingham, death at the hands of the state.   Sadly, I don’t envision the Alabama Bar Association filing such grievances and I can’t come close to envisioning Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich acknowledging the role of the DA’s office in convicting innocent people. When Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, for example, is presented with evidence that a prosecutor in her office engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, the response is to deny, deny, deny is strong.  Keeping the innocent and guilty in prison is part of the game for too many district attorneys who wish to hide behind a jury’s verdict even when prosecutors withhold evidence demonstrating that the accused may actually be innocent. It is worth noting that the prosecutor in Glenn Ford’s case apologized to the victim’s family for giving them a false sense of closure and to the members of the jury for not having all of the information that should have been disclosed to them.The drive to get and to uphold the conviction is so very strong, too strong to really adhere to the notion that it is better to let 10 guilty free than one innocent person to suffer.  Too many prosecutors can’t or won’t distinguish between the guilty and the free in the convict at all costs game that is played.  The truth becomes a casualty of war in the convict at all costs game.

Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles

It is not just district attorneys, but parole boards make it difficult for the innocent to obtain freedom.  Brendan K. Kirby just published a piece entitled “How Do Alabama Parole Board Members Decide Whom to Release? Think ‘American Idol.” http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/03/how_do_alabama_parole_board_me.html#incart_river

I truly wonder how closely parole boards are looking at records of an inmate. Further, decisions regarding whether or not an inmate should be granted parole should not take just a few minutes.  I will not rehash Rodney’s parole hearings here, but I did have concern about the number of cases the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles heard on the day of Rodney’s most recent parole hearing. Here is what I wrote:

“On August 28th (2013), the day of Rodney’s parole hearing, there are, by my count, 80 pardon and parole hearings scheduled to be heard by the same 3 people. If they hold hearings from 8-5 and take a lunch break in between, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles will be hearing more than 10 cases and hour! (I know they begin at 8 on a first come first save basis. People start signing up at 6:30/7am, I am not sure if they conclude at 5 or before, but I will check). We can only hope that the members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles are carefully reviewing each case before the hearing. By the way, there are more than 40 cases on the previous day- I stopped counting at 40. There are so many reforms that need to be made. The innocent truly has a slim chance at justice once incarcerated.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/freerodneykstanberry/

An “American Idol” reference does not begin to address the serious nature of just three parole members  deciding the fate of individuals in a manner similar to a mass production assembly line.  These decisions should not be made in this manner; this should not even be the perception. Again, I won’t rehash Rodney’s  parole hearings here, but if the wrongfully convicted can’t get relief through the court system, through the parole board, through DA’s who are not conscientious about the innocent who are incarcerated, they end up marking year, after year, after year, after year in prison, while people who are actually guilty get relief, some by telling the parole board that they are remorseful for the crimes they have committed. If you are innocent of committing a crime, you can express sadness over a tragic event, but not remorse in the form of taking ownership of the crime committed. This results in a travesty of justice that persists throughout one’s entire sentence. At Rodney’s parole hearing it was said that Rodney has deluded himself into thinking that he is innocent and that there would be no protests when he served out his full sentence. It is not at all ironic that an inmate who is innocent of the crimes for which he is accused can’t bring up innocence as a condition of parole, but those opposing his parole can make statements that the inmate has not owned up to a crime as part of their plea to keep an inmate in prison.

I would not wish a wrongful conviction on any person or on any family.  We need to elect district attorneys who do not wait 30 years after a wrongful conviction to apologize; rather, we need to elect district attorneys who take steps to address wrongful convictions from they day they are sworn into office. When current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich was running for office, I inquired about wrongful convictions with both she and her opponent. It has been disappointing to see the level of denial that has come from her office with regard to wrongful convictions. It is up to the public to elect district attorneys who seek truth and justice, and not to offer a false sense of closure. Reporters in Mobile, Alabama and throughout the nation, must report on wrongful convictions during these campaigns.  Here is a sample of my inquiry during the 2010 Mobile District Attorney’s race. 

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

www.freerodneystanberry.com

Please read http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/08/06/can-a-person-be-two-places-at-once-the-wrongful-conviction-of-rodney-k-stanberry-2/ and  http://bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

Below is an annual timeline of events that I post each year:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 orashleyrich@mobileda.org or her Chief Investigator Mike Morgan at (251) 574-8400 ormikemorgan@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 andhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/freerodneykstanberry/

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