This is the first of two posts that I will post on the Free Rodney Stanberry blog this week.
This one is impromptu and I am writing it after reading Lagniappe’s latest edition at 4am in the morning, which includes as its feature story “Did Toby Priest Spend 3 Years in Prison for a Crime He Did Not Commit.” The cover of Lagniappe has this title: “Battered Justice: Did Lady Justice Take a Beating in the case of Toby Priest, or Was She Just Doing Her Job?” Lagniappe, as you may know, also published an article about Rodney in 2009 that was written by WKRG anchor Bill Riales (http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=2332&sid=1). You can send editor Rob Holbert (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ashley Toland, author of this article about Toby Priest (email@example.com), an email asking that they write a follow-up piece on Rodney K. Stanberry, who is in his 15th year of prison for crimes he did not commit. Like Priest, Rodney went to the police and provided them will all the information he could in an effort to clear his name. This, like it did with Priest, landed him in prison. Like Priest, Rodney would have been free a long time ago had he said he was guilty and accepted a time served plea. Rodney also passed a Polygraph test. He did everything law enforcement asked of him and rather than following evidence, they followed a theory, and in the process, engaged in prosecutorial misconduct to get a conviction. If you get a chance, read some of the blogs at www.freerodneystanberry.com/blog entitled “Rodney Passed a Polygraph Test, Can They?,” “Breaking the No-Snitch Rule, It Should Apply to the Streets and to the Power Structure,” and “The Prosecutor and the Criminal.” And go to this link on our webpage: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away.
Anyway, check out pg. 29 of the November 16th-29th edition of Lagniappe as it covers the case of Toby Priest, who spent 3 years in jail for crimes he likely did not commit. I posted something from the Mobile Register about this case earlier this year, including comments made by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright, who is, according to Mobile Bay Times, Mobile DA Ashley Rich’s protégé’ and she was an active campaign supporter of Rich during Rich’s bid to become DA. I mention this because this article (and the other piece I posted) gets to the mentality of those in the DA’s Office that refuses to believe that anyone arrested and convicted are actually innocent. Wright, according to what I read via the Mobile Bay Times, has aspirations to become a judge (specifically, this is what I read on the MBT : Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Wright, a protege of DA Ashley Rich, is said to be weighing a possible run for a judgeship in 2012. Both are Republicans. Attempts to question Wright about her possible political plans did succeed right away (http://www.mobilebaytimes.com/roundup061711.html)
Wright 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. Now that is all I can say about that considering the Judge I just referenced- who was the Mobile District Attorney and who handled a case where many believe an innocent man was executed. Indeed, recall the article in the American Prospect entitled “The Judge as a Lynch Mob” by Ken Silverstein. To give you an idea of the types of District Attorney’s that have inhabited the Mobile DA’s Office, here is a quote:
Capital-defense attorneys hate to end up in court in Mobile, partly because death penalty zealots have frequently occupied the local district attorney’s office. Charlie Graddick, who served during the 1970s, pledged that on his watch he would “fry murderers until their eyeballs pop out.” After the Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out a death sentence that DA Chris Galanos had won at trial, Galanos, who served until 1994, described its members as “the five dumbest white men in the universe.” http://prospect.org/article/judge-lynch-mob
Rodney K. Stanberry was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995, and began serving his sentence on 1997 (3 20 year sentences to be served concurrently). Former DA John Tyson, Jr. who became DA following Galanos, listed Rodney as a success for his “Murder Team.” And now Ashley Rich is District Attorney, and a member of Tyson’s Murder team heads up one of her teams. Rich, by the way, has recently received an award for the prosecuting death penalty cases (http://blog.al.com/live/2011/07/mobile_da_ashley_rich_wins_awa.html).
Getting back to Wright and the Toby Priest case, when I first read about Priest’s release and Wright’s comments about it I cringed for her comments demonstrated 1) the need for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to implement a Conviction Integrity Unit similar to what Dallas County, Texas DA Craig Watkins has implemented and 2) the climate in the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, even under DA Ashley Rich, continues to be such that Rodney K. Stanberry’s case has little chance of being reopened and thoroughly investigate by a non-interested third party. It is the conviction that matters more than the truth. ADA Martha Tierney heads the White Collar Crimes Unit in the DA’s Office. Please go to http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/key_documents_in_rodneys_case to see how she handled Rodney’s Rule 32. What she said when Terrell Moore- the person who confessed to the crimes that Rodney is accused of committing nearly 3 years before his trial- appeared on the witness stand as Rodney and his attorney discovered that Moore was in the Mobile County Jail and 2) how she handled evidence right in front of her that Buzz Jordan, the prosecutor in Rodney’s case, withheld exculpatory evidence. Michael Morton of Texas was recently released after spending 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. The prosecutor in his case, who is now a judge, is under “investigation” for withholding exculpatory evidence that likely would have prevented Morton from spending a day in prison. Prosecutors need to be held accountable. There needs to be an environment in the office of every DA that works to convict the guilty, but also to exonerate the innocent. If you get 77 convictions of guilty individuals, your record should not be diminished if you work to free those who are wrongfully convicted.
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), 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.
PS A radio talk show host on an FM talk station in Mobile asked in reference to all that is going on with the Stephen Nodine case (former Mobile County Commissioner accused of murdering his mistress) in Baldwin County, AL if a someone would work to convict a person they knew were innocent. I will refer him to this link about John Thompson (of Connick v. Thompson) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/opinion/10thompson.html?_r=1 and this one about Michael Morton:
http://www.statesman.com/opinion/bar-must-act-forcefully-in-pursuit-of-justice-1965320.html?printArticle=y. And I will direct him to www.freerodneystanberry.com in the hopes that he will join us in asking DA Ashley Rich to reopen to Rodney’s case and allow a non-biased third party to review it. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted.