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.mp3) Her 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.
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