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

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?

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?

 

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

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

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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Congratulations to Excellence in Journalism- Rodney K. Stanberry and Wrongful Convictions

March 5th, 2015

Congratulations to Excellence in Journalism- Rodney K. Stanberry and Wrongful Convictions

This month I will write a series of blogs about wrongful convictions in general and Rodney K. Stanberry’s case in particular.  Why this month? Because it was in March in 1992 that a brutal crime took place and it was in March 1997 when an innocent man began serving a 20 year prison sentence for those crimes. He remains in prison.

On March 2, 1992, a brutal crime was committed against an innocent woman. Law enforcement could have actually arrested the guilty culprits within 48 hours, instead, they settled on an innocent man, who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. If Mobile, Alabama District Attorney Ashley Rich runs for reelection, she should have to address wrongful convictions-frequently.

Congratulations to Excellence in Journalism

I would like to first extend a congratulations to Kirsten West Savali and Gabriel Tynes on the recognition of their reporting on the criminal justice system.  They were rewarded a prestigious journalism fellowship by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that allowed them to attend a conference to engage with reporters, practitioners and policy makers to discuss crucial issues surrounding the criminal justice system. This year’s theme of the conference was entitled “Race, Justice, and Community: Can We All Get Along.”  Kirsten and Gabriel were among just 15 recipients of this fellow!  http://www.thecrimereport.org/news/articles/2015-02-2015-john-jayhf-guggenheim-reporting-fellows

While Rodney’s case was not the reason for their recognition, both of these reporters have either written about Rodney’s case or work for news outlets that have written about Rodney’s case.  Kirsten West Savali has written the following articles about Rodney’s case: http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/ and http://yourblackworld.net/2012/11/14/black-community-rallies-to-re-open-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/. She has also written several articles not specifically about Rodney’s case, but that have included information about his case. I had the pleasure of appearing on a radio show with her as we discussed Rodney’s case. You can hear the discussion beginning at the 1:15 mark. 

In addition, Kirsten West Savali was the first to get then newly elected District Attorney Ashley Rich’s office on the record about Rodney’s case (http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/). She has been very supportive in the pursuit of justice for Rodney K. Stanberry, including writing this piece that brought in several voices regarding Rodney’s case and/or wrongful convictions. It includes former basketball player and activist Ethan Thomas, Attorney Eric Welsh Guster, economist and author Dr. Julianne Malveaux- http://yourblackworld.net/2012/11/14/black-community-rallies-to-re-open-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

Gabriel Tynes has written pieces about William Ziegler, an inmate who spent over a decade on death row before being granted a new trial that will take place later this year. And the publication for which he is employed, Lagniappe (Mobile, AL), published the first lengthy investigative pieces about Rodney’s case.  It was written by WKRG TV 5 anchor Bill Riales. When ProPublica ( a publication that produces investigative journalism in the public interest (http://www.propublica.org/about/)  published an article entitled “Criminal Injustice: The Best Reporting on Wrongful Convictions (#MuckReads)” included Beth Schwartzapfel’s investigative piece for the Boston Review  about Rodney’s case, Tynes posted this comment in the comments section: “Gabriel Tynes

March 27, 2013, 9 a.m.

Lagniappe (Mobile, Ala.) previously published a story about Rodney Stanberry http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=2332 and has subsequently questioned the prosecution of death row inmate William John Ziegler for a vicious stabbing death in 2000: http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5961 Ziegler was recently awarded a new trial, an order the Alabama AG is currently fighting. http://www.propublica.org/article/criminal-injustice-the-best-reporting-on-wrongful-convictions

Indeed, in addition to the articles above, Lagniappe has devoted space and investigative reporting to Rodney’s case, Toby Priest’s case, William Ziegler’s case and George Martin’s case, the latter two cases will have new trials this upcoming year, Toby Priest won a Rule 32 appeal and was released from prison and Rodney, well, Rodney remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. It will be 18 years full years on March 24th, with a release date in March 2017. Those years that have been taken cannot be returned, and the Mobile District Attorney’s Office refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.  Here is a piece that Rob Holbert, co-publisher of Lagniappe write about the need to reopen these cases –http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5978 .

A couple of years ago, Beth Schwartzapfel received recognition for her reporting for the Boston Review about Rodney’s case http://www.bostonreview.net/blog/schwartzapfel-stanberry-gugenheim-award. Specifically, she was the runner-up for The John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Prize for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting. This year, she again received runner-up honors for a piece entitled: “Modern Day Slavery in America’s Prison Workforce: Why Can’t We Embrace the Idea That Prisoners Have Labor Rights.” 

It is heartening to know that of the 15 journalists recognized this year to receive a John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Fellow, 2 have referenced Rodney K. Stanberry in their writings (or currently work for a publication that did so) and to know that Beth received recognition for her investigative report on Rodney’s case. I so applaud Kirsten West Savali, Gabriel Tynes and Beth Schwartzapfel for their brilliant writing and investigative skills and for publications willing to give them the space and time to work on these types of pieces.  I hope their work will encourage others to engage in this type of reporting as they-and journalists like them- are sometimes the only accountability that the power structure will have. Accountability is how reforms may take place.  So, kudos to these individuals and to the others who were recognized for their reporting  and to those who received a fellowship.

Peace,

Artemesia stanberry

Upcoming Blogs during the month of March:

1)      Rodney Remains in Prison, Buzz Jordan Remains in Law (this will about the prosecutor in Rodney’s case, who is a successful defense attorney and what it is like to read about his cases, including one in which he referenced his work on Rodney’s case, and being reminded that there is so little accountability for prosecutors who engage in prosecutorial misconduct. Even in Michael Morton’s case, who spent 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit, the prosecutor turned judge built a very successful career before he was finally given what amounts to a slap on the wrist for his role in convicting an innocent man.

2)      Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich’s first term- Using cases in the media, a discussion of the prosecutors she forced to leave v. prosecutors involved with wrongful convictions getting to stay

3)      March 24th–  March 24th 2015 makes the completion of 18 full years in prison for Rodney K. Stanberry for crimes he did not commit, and the beginning of his 19th year.

4)      Activism- Alabama State Legislative Body needs to establish an Innocence Inquiry Commission, Mobile District Attorney’s Office needs to establish a Convictions Integrity Unit.

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Another Year is Upon US: The Fight for Justice Must Continue

January 4th, 2015

Another Year Is Upon Us: The Fight for Justice Must Continue

Well, another year has come and gone and now another birthday has arrived.  I haven’t been in the best of moods these past couple of weeks as reflecting on this past year makes one wonder when we will ever, as  human beings, have an era of 100 years, a thousand years, or a million years of peace. Humans buying and selling and outright stealing other human beings in the name of war, religion, sexual exploitation, economic gain and so on, and humans who live near one another unable/unwilling to  understand one another’s reality. One can’t say “Black Lives Matter” without an “oh, you don’t think all lives matter.” When it comes down to it, we are humans first and foremost and we have more in common than our differences would indicate and that commonality should move us forward as a global community to make the world a better place. But this very naïve, “pollyannaish” even, as there is so much that so easily pulls us apart, intentionally and unintentionally. There are historic factors that shape beliefs, realities and attitudes today. There are systemic structures in place that need to be addressed and reformed. The level of rhetoric is enhanced via social media and it can really make a prisoner of hope lose some of that hope. Who knows, I don’t have the answers and I use social media to discuss my side of the issues of the day and sometimes I do not display a sense of optimism that I almost always display when I am in front of young people, as I hope that in my optimism that they don’t give up believing that they can make a difference in this world.

And then I wake up every morning knowing that my cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, still does not have his freedom and it hurts every morning, it is a pain that is similar to a heart ache, knowing that the system failed him and knowing that he should be with his family and friends. Knowing that he should be able to wake up and say “I think I’ll take my son see a movie today,” or whatever he wants to do. That hurts. I spend so many nights tossing and turning wondering what could have been done differently to bring about his freedom and about how some district attorneys/prosecutors so willingly convict innocent people and work to keep those individuals in prison. The sad reality is that once a jury convicts someone, it is very difficult to get an exoneration and prosecutors know this. And they know that there is little accountability. In Michael Morton’s case, his prosecutor was finally held accountable. But this is after  Morton spent 25 years in prison and his prosecutor, Ken Anderson, went on to spend a career as a judge. But in the exonerations that we do see, whether an individual served 5 years, 25 years or even the 39 years in prison that Ricky Jackson had to endure (along with the 3 decades that Ronnie and Wiley Bridgeman spent- these three were sent to prison for the same crimes– http://wunc.org/post/three-lifetimes-spent-hope-check-after-wrongful-conviction) you rarely see the prosecutor held accountable.

We need to change the culture among district attorneys who have a “prosecute at all costs” mentality. District Attorneys can be tough on crime, while also recognizing that innocent people have been incarcerated. In fact, as I’ve said repeatedly, we need district attorneys. When current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich (13th Judicial District-Mobile, County Alabama) was running for district attorney to replace John Tyson, Jr. who had retired, she was asked about how the prosecutor behaved in the Duke LaCrosse case and she was adamant that she would not tolerate it. Here is a quote:  “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.”  She went on to say that she would reopen a case and evidence should be reviewed.  You be the judge. (Note Ashley Rich was elected and is now the Mobile County District Attorney-she was sworn in in 2011). Here is a link to the interview:   http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/u7am0916AshleyRich.mp3 The comments begin at the 12 minute mark and is from September 2010). See also http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/key_documents_in_rodneys_case

Since Ashley Rich has been the district attorney, the public was able to see the Toby Priest case overturned by a judge (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/11/16/reaction-to-article-in-lagniappe-about-the-toby-priest-case/) and the William Ziegler case (http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/how_the_system_failed_william.html). District Attorney Ashley Rich should be out front saying that she will ensure that her prosecutors are informed that there is zero tolerance for this. In the Toby Priest case, as I mentioned previously, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright, who campaigned for DA Ashley Rich during her election campaign,  “says in this Lagniappe article that in her 8 years with the Mobile District Attorney’s Office that she has had over 77 cases and she has never tried a case where she wasn’t sure that someone was 150% guilty (in Priest’s case, she said 90% of her believed he was guilty, 10 percent innocent). Fortunately Priest was granted a Rule 32 Post Conviction hearing by Judge Graddick, of all people!!! Sidenote, no one will accuse him of being soft on crime for paving the way for Priest’s release. Graddick is currently running to be Chief Justice of the Alabama State Supreme Court. You can be law and order, but in favor of ensuring that innocent people aren’t convicted.” http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/11/16/reaction-to-article-in-lagniappe-about-the-toby-priest-case/.

In the William Ziegler case, there is still resistance and the prosecutor, who has worked alongside Ashley Rich, said, well, he should have taken a plea like the others. Elections do matter. Primary Elections matter.  Yet, relatively few people pay attention and vote in primary elections. I do not know who plans to challenge District Attorney Ashley Rich or if she plans to run for reelection, but I will be posting about the election throughout this year, to remind you that it is upcoming.  Rodney’s continued incarceration for crimes he did not commit should be addressed during the campaign, as should wrongful convictions. During her last campaign, here is an overview of what both she and her challenger said regarding wrongful convictions in response to questions asked:  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/.  It is important to recall that in Michael Morton’s case, the successor to Ken Anderson, John Bradley, mocked Morton’s claims of innocence and fought to have possible DNA evidence tested. Bradley was defeated by Jana Duty with wrongful convictions being the center of the campaign. Because Ken Anderson focused on Morton, the actual criminal went on to commit another murder and that family helped to campaign against John Bradley (See http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/04/22/when-texas-gets-it-right-former-prosecutor-held-criminally-responsible-for-putting-innocent-man-in-prison/). Prosecutors spend time convincing the victim’s family that they go the right person, even when they know it isn’t true, so it is worth noting when victim’s families want to pursue the actual truth as justice is never served when the innocent person is convicted. If the Mobile District Attorney’s Office understood that this is an issue that will bring you, the public, out to vote, then perhaps they will work on that convict and maintain convictions at all costs mentality. 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  Again, in just months before the primaries for the next District Attorney’s race in Mobile, you will hear more about Ziegler’s new trial- I hope. This time, Ziegler has attorneys on his case that can and will challenge the Mobile District Attorney’s Office on his misconduct- even though the Alabama Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case, it will be revealing. As will the George Martin case (http://blog.al.com/live/2013/09/judge_overturns_13-year-old_ca.html).  Wrongful convictions must be a key component in the next District Attorney’s race in Mobile, so even if you do not live in Mobile, encourage people that you know in Mobile to organize and to vote.

As we begin another year, we must be aware of the many people who are wrongfully convicted.  People who are wrongfully convicted come from various backgrounds and racial groups.  I will conclude with a quote from Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years in prison before his exoneration:

” I believe 15-20% of the American prison population has been wrongfully convicted and remains unexonerated as of this Christmas Day.

When a Cleveland judge gave Anthony Lemons that Christmas gift of freedom on Tuesday morning, his mother cried. “I got my baby back today,” she said. “I still trust the system, but I didn’t think it would take this long.”

I still don’t trust the system. And until legislation addressing all the root causes of wrongful conviction gets passed, I never will – and nobody else should either. Merry Christmas.”  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/25/christmas-in-jail-wrongfully-convicted?CMP=share_btn_fb

Peace and Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

artemesia@freerodneystanberry.com

 

PS Articles of Interest:

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

http://yourblackworld.net/2012/11/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/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI (WKRG report includes prosecutor and individual who actually confessed-the confession was made BEFORE Rodney’s trial.

http://www.wkrg.com/story/23137189/questions-linger-about-guilt-of-innocence-of-rodney-stanberry

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My Reflections after Reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy

December 11, 2014

Title:  My Reflections after Reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy

I received my copy of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption on Oct. 23rd. I was actually scheduled to moderate a panel sponsored by a human and civil rights organization about race and the criminal justice system that very evening. I took Bryan Stevenson’s book with me to share with the panelists and the audience. I read a passage from his book. I didn’t begin reading his book right away, but when I started on it, I had to put it aside several times, it is a very emotional read in general, but it was particularly emotional for me as I thought about Rodney with each page read. I also thought about the many, many years I’ve contacted Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative to take on Rodney’s case. While I understand he and his organization’s focus was primarily of death penalty cases and juveniles sentenced to life and to death (these stories will haunt you), I did not fully and truly understand until reading his book.

Bryan Stevenson has taken on the cases of those that society would deem to be very unfit to be treated with justice and mercy. He has done this while also, especially during the early years of establishing the Equal Justice Initiative, undergoing death threats, threats to bomb his office over the Walter McMillian case (innocent, sentenced to death row) and without much financial and institutional support (fortunately, he stuck with moving the EJI forward and has made it a viable organization, and let us hope that the threats have subsided over the years). Bryan Stevenson doesn’t only try to provide relief for those incarcerated, but he understands the need to “fix” this criminal justice system by focusing on poverty, racial disparities, and how our past legacies have shaped it.  There have been people (attorneys, investigators) who we have had disappointing interactions with regarding Rodney’s case and I’ve been somewhat critical of those folks, but I am so glad that I never criticized Bryan Stevenson.  John Grisham, in his message on the front cover of Just Mercy writes: “Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such as difference in the American South… Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God’s work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope.”  I thought I knew and understood this through my nearly two decades of following him and the EJI, but after reading his book, I truly know and understand this-(this being his work, not ascribing it to an entity, though).  Bryan Stevenson is a remarkable individual. I encourage you to read his book and to support his organization and many like it.  I yearn for the day when an organization such as the Equal Justice Initiative and/or an Innocence Project is housed in Mobile, Alabama.

We will continue this struggle to exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry.  I wish Bryan Stevenson had written this book 17 years ago when I first became an advocate for Rodney’s case.  One of the things that one has to come to understand when being an advocate for the wrongfully convicted is that district attorneys, judges, and the judicial system as a whole do not respond to moral suasion. It is not a matter of whether one was wrongfully convicted, innocent and incarcerated, so one has to use the tools that they have to force the matter. Attorney Bryan Stevenson did just that. And while there were some heartbreaking cases that he could not win (ie motions denied by judges), his use of his legal background to come face to face with judges and prosecutors (and even law enforcement) saved many people, and restored hope to many families. However one feels about the death penalty and people on death row, there has to be some recognition of the humanity in everyone, as Stevenson writes:

“ I frequently had difficult conversations with clients who were struggling and                          despairing over their situations- over the things they’d done or had been                                  done to them, that had led them to painful moments. Whenever things got                               really bad, and they were questioning the value of their lives, I would remind                           them that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I told                                   them that if someone tells a lie, that person is not just a liar. If you take                                     something that doesn’t belong to you, you are not just a thief.  Even if you                               kill someone, you are not just a killer. I told myself that evening what I had                             been telling my clients for years. I am more than broken.  In fact, there is a                             strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing                               our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a             corresponding need to show mercy.  When you experience mercy, you learn things that are                           hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear                                 things you can’t otherwise hear.  You begin to recognize the humanity that                               resides in each of us.”  P 290, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson.

Just Mercy also provides additional insight into the rush to incarcerate for life people as young as 13, putting them in an adult prison, where they are certain to suffer from abuse. One case of a young man named Charlie (see Chapter 6 of Just Mercy entitled “Surely Doomed”) suffered horrible abuse in an adult jail before he even had a chance to go to trial. As horrific some in the public may think some kids are, do we want this sort of abuse to be part of the arrest and/or sentence?  Again, Bryan Stevenson’s book is very well written and he puts a very real face to some of the people we in society would like to ignore. I have to admit that I am not always sympathetic to the idea of abolishing the death penalty, even though I don’t like the idea of the state being involved in executing people and even though I know the racial disparities that exist in who gets the death penalty. For example, the most reliable predictor of who is sentenced to death is based on the race of the victim. According to a United States General Accounting study, as reported by Amnesty International, an individual is several more times likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim is white- http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts/death-penalty-and-race. This is inherently wrong and unfair and sends a message that not all lives matter. I mean there are issues that I have with the death penalty, including not being in support of the state putting people to death, but I don’t write blogs or talk about it because I do understand that there are some cases out there that are atrocious, but, again, do we want the state to be involved in executing people. Also, we know that there are people, such as Walter McMillan, who plays a central role in Stevenson’s book, who are innocent and on death row. We can’t be comfortable as a nation executing innocent people, or even the possibility of executing innocent people.

I have been a strong advocate of providing relief for non-violence drug offenders and, obviously, those who are wrongfully convicted, such as my cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry.  But reading Stevenson’s book also resulted in my doing some soul searching as I am not completely where he is.  But soul searching is good.  When I first heard about Rodney’s case and that the jury convicted him, my thought was that if the jury convicted him, then he must be guilty.  It did not take me long at all to see how easy it is for a jury to convict an innocent man and now, 17 years after reading the transcripts regarding Rodney’s case, I am more aware than I ever thought I would be about how the jury can convict innocent people and the conduct engaged in by prosecutors to mislead the jury (ie suppressing evidence, including a confession, in Rodney’s case, withholding exculpatory evidence, and so on). I’ve spent 17 years of my life advocating for Rodney’s freedom, something that I would not have done if I hung on to the comfortable notion that if the jury convicts, then a person must be guilty; or if I had hung on to the comfortable notion that prosecutors would not pursue an innocent person.  Stevenson, after dealing with a particularly heart wrenching case for him, talked about being broken, about realizing that he is working in a very imperfect system.

While a significant amount of my life has been devoted to Rodney’s case, which is far from the hundreds of that Stevenson had and has an up close and personal view of, I, too, have felt broken.  I’ve described it as having a never ending heartbreak because the system has broken our hearts one time too many. I was actually asked before Rodney’s third and final parole hearing last year how I would feel if he were not granted in parole. As much as Rodney and I still believed in the system, how would I feel? I wrote this blog in response to the question.  Rodney was denied parole on August 28th, 2013, and he is about to go through another Christmas/holiday season, including a new year innocent and incarcerated.  His scheduled release date is March 2017.  It does not get easier, and it is so easy to give up given that the system is stacked against an inmate once convicted, but as Bryan Stevenson said, we must not allow that feeling of brokenness to define us. We are more than that. We are persistent, we are hopeful, and though justice has been very much delayed, we believe in it. So, I, like Stevenson, am not just broken.  And this is what pushes us to continue to push for exoneration.  One of the inmates that Stevenson successfully granted release for has been in prison for nearly 50 years- in Angola (Louisiana) once known as one of the toughest prison’s in the US, sentenced as a young man for a non-capital case. His mother was 100 years old when Stevenson was able to finally get the individual freed. His mother lived to see her son a free man.  Rodney’s mother died on September 8, 2012, he was not able to have a reunion with his mother as a free man. He wasn’t even able to attend her funeral. His mother was and is his heart. His father is 80.  We have to push on for exoneration. We hope that Rodney will be able to spend quality time with his father as a free man. Rodney’s father, family, friends, and so on know that he is innocent; it is the state that has to acknowledge it for the sake of true justice. While Rodney will likely serve out his sentence before that happens, even if we can’t get his case back into the court system today, we cannot end this battle until Rodney is exonerated.  He was wrongfully accused in 1992, convicted in 1995, and began his prison sentence in 1997. It is 2014.  Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted and justice delayed, is truly justice denied.

Peace,

 

Artemesia Stanberry

www.freerodneystanberry.com

 

For additional information about Rodney’s case, please read http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley

And while this video is from 2004, please watch this 6 minutes WKRG news video and this updated WKRG video before Rodney’s final parole hearing in 2013: http://www.wkrg.com/story/23137189/questions-linger-about-guilt-of-innocence-of-rodney-stanberry

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A “Twitter Rant”- Free Rodney Stanberry

October 14, 2014

A “Twitter Rant”- Free Rodney Stanberry

 

I was reminded about my week on twitter for last week. At times I do go on long “twitter rants” regarding my cousin’s plight- innocent and incarcerated, 17 years and counting.  Below are the 47 consecutive tweets from last week.  These are difficult times; Rodney’s 80 year of dad needs to spend these years with his son and his son needs and deserves to spend these years with his father.  Were Rodney guilty, I can understand the lack of empathy, but for an innocent man to continue to live this nightmare and to live with being away from his family, empathy and justice are both deserved. The system needs to correct itself, it is never too late to do what is right. Prosecutors have every incentive to do the wrong thing, but few incentives to do the right thing.  There are many people who truly are innocent of the crimes for which they are accused, Rodney is among those individuals.  In addition to this blog entry, please go to www.freerodneystanberry.com for documents regarding Rodney’s case, including a confession by one of the two individuals actually involved, made before Rodney’s trial!  And I wish to refer you to this blog entitled “Rodney Passed a Lie Detector Test, Can They?”, “The Prosecutor and the Criminal,”  and Gun Control: What Happened When a Gun Enthusiast Tried to Stop the Sale of Weapons.  See also this investigative report http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley.

Peace,

Artemesia Stanberry

 

 

 

Artemesia Stanberry‏@artiestan

Just got some additional feedback from a group that I was able to speak w/ this weekend about Rodney’s case and about wrongful convictions

11:58 AM – 7 Oct 2014

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  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan They were very impressed with my knowledge about wrongful convictions and the criminal justice system, I sometimes wish that I

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan didn’t have to learn so much about this subject because it is a very disheartening reality of American democracy as exercised via

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan the criminal justice system-racial and class inequality is rampant. But I sometimes wish i did not know and understand the extent

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan to wish prosecutors will knowing get AND maintain a wrongful conviction- that hurts more than anything else. As I told this group

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan when I first heard about my cousin’s case, I assumed that if the jury convicted him then he must have been guilty, my eyes are

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan now so wide open- prosecutors have so much power, including the power to withhold evidence (they shouldn’t, but too many do), the

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan power to manipulate the entire system, including the jury pool. In this Ziegler case, for example, Judge Stewart stated in her

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan ruling that Mobile DA’s office went overboard in striking Blacks for the jury pool, understand that one of the state’s arguments

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan was that Ziegler attacked Baker because Baker called Ziegler the “N-Word”- yes, the ADA argued this, so it is in their interest

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan to keep AAs the jury, so much other stuff with that case. Anyway, I was able to talk with group about the National Academy of

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Sciences recent study on eyewitness misidentification (Rodney’s wrongful conviction centered on this, could have been avoided if

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Prichard Police didn’t place photos provided by Rodney to held THEM locate the actual culprits &asked which of these individuals

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan could have been at your house-Rodney was a frequent guest, but no motive, at work, etc http://www.freerodneystanberry.com , btw in the book

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan I’m writing about his case, i will take you through a couple of Al court documents,what tactics will prosecutors use to ensure

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan that everyone stays on board with a false theory. So I was asked during my presentation if there is anything that I would do

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan differently if I had it to do all over again.My response was centered on 2 things- 1,the system & DAs not respond to moralsuasion

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Jordan, Tierney, Tyson and Rich (DAs and ADAs in Mobile County during Rodney’s trial and incarceration) have demonstrated that

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan the truth is a casualty of this convict and maintain conviction at all costs game, that a confession by one of the 2 actual

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan did not matter before Rodney’s trial, during his trial, at his appeal and even today, they conviction is the Holy Graile, not

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan the truth and, therefore, not really the-well, you know. So if I’d known this 17+yrs ago, instead of or perhaps alongside

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan entering a doctoral program, which I was doing when I first got involved with Rodney’s case, i would have entered a law program

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan i’m devoting a chapter to this book (accidential activist/advocate) to the lawyers we’ve dealth with which will help to explain

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan further explain my frustration about not getting a law degree. The second thing I’d probably do differently would have been to

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan have spent much more time on the ground in Mobile, personally going to various offices, the media (it took 16 yrs for the

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Mobile Press Register to finally write about Rodney’s conviction (they devoted ink to the trial) & my 1st letter to them was ’98

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan it wasn’t just a letter, but a large packet of info-I spend tons of money at Kinkos to copy, print and send material, I was

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan grateful that WKRG (courtesy of Bill Riales) finally ran this in 2004 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI …) and later an article in Lagniappe.

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan but finally during Rodney’s 3rd parole try, the Mobile Register (Brendan Kirby) finally did a piece on Rodney’s case. My point is

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan that I should have spent much more time in Alabama, going to the Alabama Bar to personally file a grievance, going to the State

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Legislature so that they could address wrongful convictions, going to the DAs office, organizing people on the ground to vote and

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan to push for reforms in Mobile DAs office and so on, especially after the NAACP was calling for DA Tyson’s resignation regarding

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Herman’s case, and so on. I’m hoping that this book will be published before the primary elections for the upcoming DA race in

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan 2016 and i hope to spend more of 2015 in AL and online to discuss the significance of voting in the primary for a candidate who

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan is tough on crime and law and order, but who isn’t afraid to acknowledge that wrongful convictions have taken place and who isn’t

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan afraid to change the culture of the office. DA Ashley Rich has worked alongside her ADAs for nearly 2 decades now (as long as

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Rodney has been incarcerated), she isn’t interested in changing culture as it relates to addressing wrongful convictions-her

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan opponent-Mark Erwin-seemed to be, got caught up in Nodine matters, etc, but someone like him can bring about a similar result we

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan saw with Michael Morton, prosecutor who fought to deny DNA testing was defeated-Morton’s conviction was an issue.If you are still

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan unsure of the culture DA Ashley Rich fosters, look at and watch what they continue to do with William Ziegler’s case, keep the

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Nov 20th date in mind, when another hearing about moving forward w/ his trial is to take place. But read all about the case now

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Again, DAs can be tough on crime, win awards for sending people to death row, protect the community, while also seriously

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan addressing and acknowledging wrongful convictions. This memo needs to get to DA Ashley Rich. Ok, one more tweet on this.

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan I am trying to commit 2-4 hours each week to writing and completing a book that focuses on this blog:http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/10/15/a-day-in-the-life-the-pursuit-of-justice-and-the-agony-of-defeat/ … it is

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan important to help others in prison on a wrongful conviction and their advocates. And, I do have 5yr plan w/regard to law degree

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan I don’t know if it is possible to get someone exonerated after a sentence has been completed, but my goal is exoneration for

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan Rodney K. Stanberry and an apology to all by the Mobile DA’s office. When we stop advocating, injustice wins, my lifelong goal

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan is and will be about Rodney’s exoneration, the DAs office could have convicted the guilty, instead, focused solely on convicting

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan an innocent man, and that isn’t right, nor just. So while I began 17 yrs ago thinking that if the jury convicted, then a person

  1. Artemesia Stanberry ‏@artiestan  Oct 7

@artiestan must be guilty,my eyes have been open,I do still trust& believe in our system and working within the system, a long journey to go

 

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Innocent and Imprisoned in Alabama- Birthdays, Father’s Days, and the Marking of the Years

Innocent and Imprisoned in Alabama- Birthdays, Father’s Days, and the Marking of the Years

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

You may have read the article about a former prosecutor who, 24 years later, acknowledged that he may have convicted an innocent man.  The man who spent 24 years in prison is Doug O’Neal of South Carolina.  Here is a portion of the article written by Jennifer Emert:

“Wednesday when O’Neal appeared before the parole board, he didn’t express remorse, which is usually what the board wants. He again told them he wasn’t responsible for the murder for which he served 24 years. But this time, he had Morton backing him up.

“I’m convinced I prosecuted an innocent man, and I think he’s served 24 years as a result,” Morton said.” http://www.wistv.com/story/25772916/24-years-later-a-former-prosecutor-says-a-convicted-murderer-is-innocent

Sadly, while O’Neal was granted parole, it will be an uphill battle for him to be exonerated.  Imagine spending 24 years of your life in prison for crimes you did not commit.  It is interesting that he went before the parole board and again maintained his innocence.  One of the things that an inmate learns is that if he wants to be granted parole, he doesn’t go before the parole board and make claims of innocence.  After spending 24 years in prison, O’Neal was willing to remain in prison, and away from his family, rather than to tell the state something that he knew was not true.

Rodney K. Stanberry

Rodney K. Stanberry was denied parole for a third time on August 28th, 2013.  He remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. Rodney entered a prison in Alabama on March 24th, 1997 to serve a 20 year prison sentence. That was 17 years ago. His 45th birthday was on Sunday, April 27th.  In addition, Rodney spent his 17th Father’s Day in prison.  Since his last birthday and since the last Father’s Day, Rodney has been denied parole. The members of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles will not hear his case again, thus Rodney will “celebrate” another birthday and Father’s Day in prison next year and the year after that. His scheduled release date is March 2017.  Rodney’s son was born in the year before he went to prison.  As of May, his son is 18 years old. Rodney’s father is 80, and his mother did not live to see her son a free and exonerated man. The travesty of justice continues.  I cannot imagine the prosecutor in his case acknowledging that he convicted an innocent man.  While Jordan certainly wanted to get justice for the victim, who was brutally shot, he went about it in a fashion that allowed the guilty to go free and the innocent to be prosecuted.  Jordan had a confession by one of the actual culprits almost three years before Rodney’s trial, a confession made in front of Jordan- Jordan was able to question the person who confessed.

After Rodney was convicted in 1995, he filed appeals, including one based on Jordan suppressing Moore’s confession so that the jury would not here it. Yes, that happened! While Rodney was awaiting the decision of his appeals, he had to meet with a probation officer. Here is how the officer described Rodney:

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.

Rodney was a young man, in his early 20s when he was arrested and convicted of a brutal shooting of an innocent woman. He was convicted of 1st degree robbery, burglary and attempted murder. The shooting and invasion of the victim’s home was an act of true violence and a horrible incident that should never be sanctioned. Neither should the arrest and conviction of an innocent man.  The Mobile District Attorney’s Office pursued only Rodney, even as another individual confessed to being one of two people at the victim’s home when the crimes occurred, and Rodney wasn’t the person he was with. Moore, who confessed, even described the victim as she was begging to not be harmed, but the prosecutor Buzz Jordan refused to believe him, even though the confession was made in the law offices of Moore’s attorney, one of the most powerful attorneys in Mobile. Moore had no incentive to give a false confession, he wasn’t being roughed up by the police, to the contrary, he knew he could be identified by on the ground witnesses who saw him leave the victim’s house so he secured an attorney, confessed, and must continue to be shocked to know that Prosecutor Buzz Jordan refused to pursue him. Yes, our judicial system at work.

Rodney was arrested and convicted even though he had evidence that he was at work when the crimes occurred. Can one person be two places at once?. Rodney was convicted solely based on victim eyewitness testimony. He was convicted even as another individual confessed in front of the prosecutor two years before the start of Rodney’s trial that he, not Rodney, was at the victim’s home when she was shot (the jury NEVER heard this confession because the prosecutor was able to get the judge- Ferrell McRae-to suppress it), even as work documents and the testimony of his supervisor and co-workers placed him at work when the crimes were committed, and even as there was no physical evidence that placed him at the scene of the crime. Rodney also passed a polygraph test. He did everything a law abiding citizen should do in helping law enforcement and in turn, they arrested and accused him of committing what was a violent crime. Rodney had the same weapons that he was accused of stealing.

I typically spend a lot of time going over his case in these blogs, but I will keep this one relatively short. Please go to www.freerodneystanberry.com and www.freerodneystanberry.com for more information about his case.

If the Mobile District Attorney’s Office had followed evidence instead of a theory, then Rodney would be a free man.  If the Mobile District Attorney’s Office and the Prichard Police Department had pursued the actual culprits, then the victim would have actually received true justice.  If the Mobile District Attorney’s Office had spent as much energy in the pursuit of justice as they have in upholding a wrongful conviction, then the taxpayers of Mobile and of Alabama would have saved they thousands upon thousands of dollars it continues to cost them to incarcerate an innocent man.  If the Mobile District Attorney’s Office would stop sanctioning wrongful convictions, then the integrity of the judicial system would be restored.

Parole Denial

Rodney was denied parole on August 28th, 2013.  This was a devastating blow in the pursuit of some justice.  Were Rodney actually guilty of these crimes, then he likely would have been out of prison years ago, but in this battle to prove his innocence and to obtain his freedom, the parole board responds to comments such as “he has deluded himself into thinking he is innocent” as opposed to Rodney’s supporters asking them to look at Rodney’s record, look at the support he has, look at his work plan, look at his criminal history, and, yes, please read and consider this investigative report about his case.  After Rodney was denied parole, I inquired with a key staffer on the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to just provide me with a reason as to Rodney was denied parole. His response in part: “After reading your email, I will attempt to answer your two questions. First, let me say that I do regret the fact that you are in this dilemma. However, you nor the Parole Board put you there. Rodney Stanberry causes this dilemma on you. Other than granting parole to Mr. Stanberry, I am not sure anything I say will be acceptable. At any rate, in Alabama, parole is not a right. Mr. Stanberry was sentenced to a twenty (20) year sentence. Technically, he can be made to serve every day of that sentence. The parole Board is not under any obligation to parole him.” (December 5th, 2013 via email.) Rodney did not put me in this dilemma.  It is the continued pursuit of injustice by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office that keeps Rodney is this nightmare.  Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich stated in response to a reporter regarding Rodney’s parole that she has always taken the position that he should be denied parole. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted.

Recently, Johnathan Fleming was released from prison after serving 24 years for a crime he did not commit.  He had evidence that he was in Florida when the crime committed in New York took place.  The prosecutor, even though he had this evidence, relied on faulty eyewitness testimony, and ignored actual evidence in hand with proof that Fleming was on a family vacation at Disney World.   I am taking the liberty to share with you a few paragraphs from one report about his case:

At his trial, defense lawyers provided family photos and home videos of Fleming in Florida around the time of Rush’s killing. But according to Taylor Koss, another of Fleming’s lawyers, they did not have evidence he was in Florida on the day of the slaying. The prosecution persuaded jurors to ignore the alibi.

Fleming told his attorneys he had paid a bill for phone calls made from his Florida hotel room the night before Rush was killed, and he believed the receipt was in his pocket when police arrested him. But authorities told the defense he had no such receipt, according to Koss.

In the course of the investigation, the Conviction Review Unit found the receipt in police records, time stamped and dated — solidifying Fleming’s claim that he was in Florida at the time of the killing, according to the district attorney’s office.

“This is proof of alibi that was basically purposely withheld,” Koss said. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/08/justice/new-york-wrongful-conviction/).

Fleming was in his 20s when he went into prison, he was 51 when he exited. Where does he go to get his life back? When it comes to prosecutors withholding evidence to get a conviction, it is truly a small world after all, because this practice is all too common.

Conviction Integrity Unit

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has come under scrutiny for many cases like Fleming’s. If they did not have a Conviction Integrity Unit, Fleming would likely still be in prison.  Last year, David Ranta was released from prison after spending two decades of his life behind bars for crimes he did not commit.  The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit reviewed his case as well. While no amount of money will replace those years lost, he will be compensated (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/nyregion/man-framed-by-new-york-detective-to-get-6-4-million-without-filing-suit.html?_r=0). The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has a Conviction Integrity Unit AND wrongful convictions were a part of the most recent district attorney’s campaign. Further, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson is devoting a million dollars to review over 90 cases, I can’t imagine the Mobile District Attorney’s Office doing this, even if they had a million dollars to do so. I’ve been requesting for years that the Mobile District Attorney’s Office establishes a Conviction Integrity Unit.  While this may not lead to the innocent being release, it would demonstrate that District Attorney Ashley Rich is addressing a problem in our criminal justice system, the conviction of people who are actually innocent.  The vast majority of people who are convicted are guilty and it is important for prosecutors to prosecutor people harming our communities; however, when there is strong evidence of innocence, prosecutors shouldn’t just ignore it and hide behind a jury’s conviction because sometimes the juries are misled by the prosecutors. Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich has been the District Attorney since 2011, but she has worked as an assistant district attorney in the office for 14 years prior to that.  I fully understand that her establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit with an actual eye on reviewing old cases and new that the people she worked with for so long would come under scrutiny, and thus the incentive would be to stand by the conviction, but it is necessary to establish for the integrity of the system. I am asking that you take a moment to call or email her office to request that she establish a Conviction Integrity Unit. District Attorney Ashley Rich can be reached at (251) 574-5000 or via email at ashleyrich@mobileda.org.  Her chief investigator, Michael Morgan, can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or via email at mikemorgan@mobileda.org.

Rubin Hurricane Carter

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.

Conclusion

Rodney K. Stanberry has spent far too many years in prison for crimes he did not commit.  It is truly a shame and a travesty that his 45th birthday (April 27th) and his 17th Father’s Day June 15th) was spent in prison. His father is now 80 and his mother died two years ago, she would have celebrated a birthday in May.  I will leave you with this:

Dr. Wilmer Leon (a slight paraphrase): Rodney, after talking to you and after speaking with your cousin over the course of many years, you believed in the system and still have faith in the system. It is interesting to hear you now, you still seem to have faith in the system. Rodney, yes, yes I do, maybe it is a character defect…. The system has not only engaged in a miscarriage of justice for me, but also carried out an injustice to the victim.

 You can hear the full interview here; you can hear Rodney towards the end of this show that features his former supervisor, an eyewitness on the scene, his father (Earsell), sister(Toni), and cousin (Artemesia) : http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78

District Attorney Ashley Rich can correct this miscarriage of justice.  Please contact her office. Even if she says that Rodney’s case will not be reviewed, request that she establishes a Conviction Integrity Unit.  Again, here is the contact information for her office: District Attorney Ashley Rich can be reached at (251) 574-5000 or via email at ashleyrich@mobileda.org.  Her chief investigator, Michael Morgan, can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or via email at mikemorgan@mobileda.org.

Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

PS http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/09/09/the-continued-struggle-to-free-an-innocent-man-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/

#FreeDad:  http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/06/20/freedad-to-the-fathers-who-are-wrongfully-convicted/

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