Innocent and the Parole Board: The Case of Rodney K. Stanberry


June 2, 2013
Innocent and the Parole Board: The Case of Rodney K. Stanberry
Greetings:
The biggest obstacle to Rodney being granted parole is the fact that he is innocent. Yes, this seems counter-intuitive, but the parole board is not concerned with claims of innocence, they are concerned with the prisoner expressing remorse, presumably after thinking about his/her actions and the consequences of his/her actions. As is stated in this New York Times piece entitled “The Innocent Prisoner’s Dilemma, there is a dilemma of the innocent- if you are in prison for any period of time, you know that if you go before the parole board and maintain your innocence, then the chances that you will get parole is virtually nil. Therefore the innocent has a dilemma, lie and say he is guilty and express remorse for a chance at parole, or maintain his innocence and be denied parole. This, in it of itself, is a travesty of justice. Some prosecutors certainly lie, mislead, and suppress evidence in other to get a conviction, clearly the conviction matters far more than the truth and in the integrity of the conviction for some, not all, prosecutors. The system rewards this because once an inmate is convicted, the chances of obtaining freedom is an uphill battle, while prosecutors build careers based on convictions. However, this same system does not reward the prisoner who is truthful about being innocent of the crimes for which he is serving time. Clearly this needs to be addressed.
Challenges
He is innocent. As mentioned above, the parole board does not entertain claims of innocence. During Rodney’s last two parole board hearings in 2004 and 2009 (after he’d served 7 and 12 years, respectively,) he had everything a parole board would look for: family support, sponsors, jobs lined up, his former supervisor speaking before the parole board, a letter from the arresting officer in support of his parole, a petition from his former coworkers and businessmen in support of his release and so on. Rodney did not have a criminal record before incarceration, and he was employed at BFI Waste Systems from 1989 until he began his sentence in 1997- his former supervisor, who spoke at the 2009 parole hearing called him a model employee and his coworkers signed a petition requesting that he be granted parole!). In 2009, he also had certificates for programs he completed as an inmate. He also had letters, emails, and calls of support from Alabama and around the country.
But none of this mattered. In a statement before the parole board in 2009 to deny Rodney parole, someone (I am intentionally not including the name of the person out of respect for his pain and anguish) said that Rodney can’t be rehabilitated because he won’t admit to what he’s done. In 2004, this same person said that it hurts him that Rodney will not own up to “what he did”; he was dismayed that Rodney won’t admit to being guilty. And there is no doubt that in 2013 a similar statement will be made by the same person, it is powerful to the parole board. Again, this is extremely difficult to overcome. If Rodney were guilty and said “I’m very sorry, I did something horrible, and it will not happen again,” presumably, he would have been out of prison by now.
What is Rodney to do? He feels very bad about what happened to the victim, but he can’t admit to something he did not do. The system forces an innocent man to sell his soul for a chance at freedom.  Rodney wants his freedom, but not at the expense of selling his soul. Rodney wants to be with his 79 year old father, especially since his mother died on September 8, 2012, but not at the expense of selling his soul. Rodney wants to be with his teenage son, he wants to be with his sister, he wants to be surrounded by his friends and loved ones, but not at the expense of admitting to committing crimes that he did not commit. And this is why we have a continued uphill battle. His appeals are exhausted, innocence projects hadn’t taken up his case because it is a non-DNA case (what happened to evidence that could have contained DNA, we do not know), and with 4 years remaining on his sentence, the chances that an attorney or innocence project will take on his case becomes even slimmer because it takes so many years to get it through the system and, sadly, there are so many innocent people sentenced to life and to the death row that have priority over someone with even a 20 year sentence. So while it isn’t perfect-parole versus full exoneration- his being granted parole will be a step towards justice.
A horrible crime was committed against the victim- A horrible and despicable crime that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Rodney would agree with this. But an innocent person should not be punished for those crimes. (http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley).
Mobile District Attorney’s Office
District Attorney Ashley Rich has made it known that she will send her staff to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to stop a parole for someone convicted within her jurisdiction. I frequent her website and have seen her make notices that she has sent a Mobile County Assistant District Attorney to a parole hearing and then states that parole was denied. As mentioned, if someone is guilty, then the District Attorney’s Office should help to ensure that the victim’s family receives justice, but when there is evidence that someone is innocent, this becomes a continued mechanism to support the conviction over truth and justice. Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich also said during her campaign that if a prosecutor withheld evidence, then that prosecutor’s career is over. The integrity of the conviction, she said, is so important.
1) District Attorney Ashley Rich knows that a confession was suppressed before Rodney’s trial (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_confession-_testimonial_immunity_agreement)
2) District Attorney Ashley Rich knows that the prosecutor in his case travelled to a prison in New York from Mobile to interview the person they said was the shooter and claimed not to take any notes- if he took notes, this is withholding evidence, the former DA, John Tyson, Jr. said the prosecutor in question traveled to New York in order to interview the shooter, thus indicating it was official business and not a vacation. This blog contains the letter from former DA John Tyson, Jr. and the prosecutor’s, Buzz Jordan, statement about being on vacation while visiting the person they (the Mobile DA’s Office) says was the shooter: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/04/28/44-an-innocent-man-celebrates-his-44th-birthday-in-prison-why/
3) District Attorney Ashley Rich and Mobile District Attorney’s Office knows how the victim eyewitness identification came about. As the victim was recovering from a coma, she indicated that she did not know who did this to her. Prichard police then placed photos in front of her, provided by Rodney, and said who could have been at your house. The photos included a picture of Rodney and he was often at her house. And this made Rodney a suspect even as it would take a short time before the prosecutor would discover evidence that Rodney could not have been at the victim’s house and that one of the two people actually at the house would confess IN FRONT OF THE PROSECUTOR nearly 3 years before Rodney’s trial. http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/eyewitness_misidentification
4) Here is how the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Ashley Rich, responded to journalist Kirsten West Savali’s: http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/
And here is what the prosecutor in Rodney’s case said about the confession and the case: WKRG TV 5 Report: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI
Further, an eyewitness for the prosecutor said he saw Rodney’s brown bronco. Please read his testimony, along with Mauldin and Dortch, who were also eyewitnesses who described Moore AND his car and placed both at the victim house. The mechanic (Mauldin) was working on Dortch’s vehicle when the person who confessed entered the victim’s home. Mauldin’s dark brown Toyota was with him as he worked on Dortch’s car (see page 713- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf) The mechanic as well as another neighbor testified to this on the witness stand, under oath, and identified the person who confessed and his vehicle as it nearly hit the mechanic as he was rushing from the victim’s house(transcript table of contents to locate testimony http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/tableofcontents.25592750.pdf-). Again, the mechanic had a brown Toyota, which is what the witness for the prosecution likely recalled.
Rodney drove a commercial front-loader, one of those giant trucks with a fork to pick up dumpsters, as described by investigative reporter Beth Schwartzapfel in an investigative article she wrote about Rodney’s case. Between the hours that the Mobile District Attorney’s Office says the crimes occurred, Rodney, his work truck and his bronco were accounted for, as records show for his work truck and as witnesses testified. During the trial testimony, one of his co-workers testified that he has worked with Rodney for 6 years. When he (co-worker)  arrived at work at 4am, he parked in front of Rodney’s brown bronco. When he took a 10am break, he walked outside and saw Rodney’s truck. And at noon, he saw Rodney in the break room, where they talked about Rodney taking a test for a CDL license (see p 23 of link). Rodney would literally have to have been in two places at once to drive his work truck and his personal vehicle at the same time. The prosecutor on Rodney’s Rule 32 Post Conviction hearing said that he would have to have passed by the  highway exit to the victim’s house on his way to the landfill. Yes, in his work truck, the commercial frontloader- yes, but their witness does not say he saw his BFI work truck, rather, he mentioned a brown vehicle that turned out to be the mechanic’s car. The City of Mobile Landfill Stamp of when Rodney arrived at the landfill further places much doubt that Rodney could have driven his work vehicle and his personal vehicle during the time frame that the DA’s Office says these crimes were committed.  As stated in Beth Schwartzapfel’s piece on this “Jordan (prosecutor) never explained how Rodney could have returned to his truck to BFI, picked up his Bronco, driven to Prichard to shoot Valerie, then returned to his Bronco, picked up his truck again, and resumed his route without anyone knowing.” Again, the full trial transcript is available. At some point, the truth should matter.
Prosecutors have a lot of power to convict and they spend their entire careers fighting to uphold a conviction, even if it is an innocent person convicted. The public became aware of the case of Michael Morton, an innocent man who served 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. The State of Texas finally corrected a wrong and the prosecutor in Morton’s case was actually arrested after an Inquiry Commission held hearings on whether the prosecutor in Morton’s case withheld evidence (When Texas Gets it Right). Further, the Texas Bar Association is suing the prosecutor. The Morton case has generated a lot of press and publicity, but he had to spend 25 years in prison fighting for his freedom and exoneration. The prosecutor and his successor had so convinced Morton’s in-laws and family (Morton was accused of murdering his wife) of his guilt that even his son changed his last name on his 18th birthday. This is the power of prosecutors. Far too many become so in love with the conviction and in upholding the conviction that they lose sight of actual justice. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office, under the leadership of Ashley Rich, has an opportunity to pursue justice. Even a local (Mobile) publication has called for an independent review of Rodney’s case.
What Can you do?
Below is the contact information for the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. You can write in support of Rodney. Please be respectful. Read about Rodney’s case and, in this Boston Review article by Beth Schwartzapfel, you will hear the voices of various parties involved in Rodney’s case (Who shot Valerie Finley)
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles
CENTRAL OFFICE

301 South Ripley Street
PO Box 302405
Montgomery, Al 36130-2405
Telephone:  (334) 353-7771, 353-8067
FAX:  (334) 242-1809
TDD:  (334)242-0110
Below is the contact information for District Attorney Ashley Rich. You can ask if she plans to work to block Rodney’s chances at parole.
Ashley Rich • Mobile County District Attorney • P.O. Box 2841 • Mobile, AL 36652 • (251) 574-8400 and ashleyrich@mobileda.org
Caravan to the Parole Hearing:
We hope to organize a caravan from Mobile to Montgomery. Those who are near Montgomery can also organize a caravan. We don’t have the exact parole date yet, but if you are interested in organizing and/or participating in the caravan, send an email to caravanforrodney@freerodneystanberry.com and someone will be in touch with you. We also hope to have a rally in Mobile before his parole hearing to further promote his case and to get more participants in the caravan to Montgomery on the day of Rodney’s parole hearing. Dr. Boyce Watkins, a supporter of our cause to Free Rodney, has stated that he would support and possibly participate in a rally, which will provide national coverage in addition to local coverage if we can organize a rally. Here is a link to Dr. Boyce Watkins and Dr.
Wilmer Leon’s
discussion of Rodney’s case. Please continue to check
www.freerodneystanberry.com for updates.
Remember, justice is NEVER served when the wrong person is convicted. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Peace,
Artemesia Stanberry
Also a radio interview featuring Rodney’s supervisor who testified at trial and before the parole board in 2009: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=119 and another interview featuring an eyewitness and an overview of Rodney’s case:    http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78
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