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Because this prosecutor let a guilty man go free, an innocent man remains in prison.
July 25, 2013
Can a Person Be Two Places at Once? The Wrongful Conviction of Rodney K. Stanberry
Rodney K. Stanberry is in his 17th year in prison for crimes he did not commit. He was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995, and began his prison sentence in 1997. He was convicted of attempted murder, burglary, and robbery. For the latest investigative work on Rodney’s case, please read this: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley
Rodney was convicted even as there was evidence that he was at work when the crimes occurred. He was convicted even though there was no physical evidence that placed him at the scene of the crime. He became a suspect after he went to the police a day after the crimes occurred, taking a rare day off of work, because he was perceived as being too helpful during his effort to help police apprehend the culprits. Rodney worked at the same company since 1989, earning $300.00 a week, which wasn’t bad for a young man in his 20s and he owned the same guns he is accused of entering the victim’s home to steal. Read more here about the weapons. He remained at the same job during the trial and until 1997 when he began his prison sentence (1989-1997!). He was a model employee, as stated by his supervisor.
On the day the crime took place
Rodney worked at BFi Waste Management. He began his employment at the company in 1989, rarely taking a vacation day. On Monday, March 2, 1992, Rodney clocked in at work at approximately 3am. His work consisted of removing waste from industrial sites via those large vehicles with the forklift feature.
When and what time did the crimes occur?
March 2, 1992
The State’s witnesses report various times ranging from 8:30am–9:30am Monday, March 2nd; the victim’s sister testified that she called the victim at 9am and at approximately 9:13, her sister informed her that someone was at the door. This was based on a statement she gave to the police after she was asked about it during the trial: (trial transcript R-691- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf)
Terrell Moore, the person who confessed to being one of two people who was at the victim’s home when she was shot said he and the shooter, he identified as Angel “Wish” Melendez, knocked at the front door of the victim’s home that morning: http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/20100914155256.256155350.pdf. The purpose was to take weapons that Rodney tried to prevent them from getting by telling the victim’s husband to not sell them any weapons, fearing that they’d take them back to New York, which could result in some innocent bystander getting shot.
As Rodney’s co-workers, supervisors, and a City of Mobile employee are testifying and clearly demonstrating that Rodney’s location was accounted for during the time frame of when these crimes are said to have occurred, Assistant District Attorney Buzz Jordan, would then say, ok, but where was he at 8am, thus revising the state’s timeframe on the spot, this is very convenient as it becomes even more evident that Rodney could not have been at the victim’s home. The conviction matters more than the truth, in some cases. It became also convenient for the prosecutor to perpetuate an unproven murder for hire scheme thus planting in the jury’s mind that even if he was not at the home, he must have been involved somehow, so convict him.
What Was Rodney Doing as his Occupation When the Crimes Occurred?
Rodney K. Stanberry drove a large commercial front-loader, one of those giant trucks with a fork to pick up dumpsters. (as recounted in the article written by Beth Schwartzapfel that ran in the Boston Review ). He began his workday at approximately 3am and spoke with his supervisor at approximately 6/6:30 am. His last stop (pick-up) was Degussa Chemical Plant at approximately 8:40; he (Rodney) then radioed a BFI dispatcher that his route was completed and that he needed to talk to a mechanic because he had a flat tire. He was advised to return to BFI headquarters on Hall’s Mill Road, which he did. Note, his route was on the south end of Mobile County, from Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre to Hamilton Boulevard, the victim’s home in Prichard was on the North side of Mobile, approximately 17 miles away.
At 8:55, the dispatcher at BFI enters Rodney’s arrival to BFI’s headquarters and the nature of the mechanical problem; his time card stamped at 9am, which had to be done before repairs could be made on his work truck.
9:05-9:32, Rodney’s vehicle is being repaired. He is spotted in the break room; his co-workers testify that both he and his personal vehicle are on the grounds of BFI during this entire time. (trial testimony from co-workers begin on page 730 (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf). And here are two interviews featuring Rodney’s supervisor discussing the case: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=78 and http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=119
After the repairs were completed, the dispatcher logged Rodney out at approximately 9:50 and he then had to travel to the northern part of the county to dump the contents of his truck. It was approximately 32 miles to Chestang, Alabama, where the landfill was located. With the load of his truck, it would take an hour to an hour and ten minutes to arrive. An employee for the City of Mobile’s landfill weighed Rodney’s truck and stamped his time sheet- the timestamp is 10:40am (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Stanberry_time_card.86161545.pdf– Note, this is a City of Mobile timestamp, so if the DA’s Office believes Rodney’s co-workers were involved in some grand conspiracy to cover for Rodney’s whereabouts, they would have to believe that they City of Mobile was complicit in it).
Rodney returns to BFI’s headquarters and ends his shift at 11:55am.
Rodney’s truck was loaded, weighing 64,000 pounds, indicating that he was not sitting idle during the morning in question, as would have been the case if he had the time to pull his work vehicle alongside the road, get his personal vehicle, pick up his alleged accomplice, drive to the Finley home, ransack the home and shoot the victim, drop the shooter off, get his vehicle back to his job, and then somehow get back to his work truck. It is impossible, which is why Rodney said during the trial that the prosecutors must think this is some JFK Magic bullet conspiracy. Sadly, while Rodney was pointing out the absurdity of the State’s argument in his trial testimony, the state slyly planted in the jury’s head that maybe his whereabouts can be accounted for at 9am, but what about 8am. Again, their witness, the victim’s sister, told police well before Rodney’s trial that she was on the phone with her sister at 9am and the call ended at approximately 9:13. Moore confessed that he snatched the phone cord out of the wall, again, consistent with the victim’s sister’s account.
When Did the Police Arrived at the Victim’s House?
11:20am Captain Frank Dees of the Prichard Police Department said he and several police officers, including Sgt. Eddie Ragland, who was responsible for fingerprinting and collecting evidence, were at the victim’s home.
This time is important because the Assistant District Attorney (Martha Tierney) in opposing Rodney’s Post Conviction trial request said that Rodney was 6 minutes from the victim’s house. To get to the landfill from BFI, Rodney would have to get on the Interstate and the victim’s home in Prichard, Alabama was off the Interstate. But, as has been established, Rodney would have been in his work truck, not in his personal vehicle. The victim stated that she saw Rodney’s Bronco in her driveway. The State’s witnesses said they saw Rodney’s Bronco*. However, one of Rodney’s co-workers testified that he parked his vehicle beside Rodney’s as always and saw Rodney’s vehicle at 10am when he walked outside for a break (begins on page 731- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf). Thus, again, Rodney could not have departed with his 64,000 pound truck, parked it some place, and then get a cab or whatever he would have had to do to return to work for his personal vehicle. He would not have had time to do all of this and still get his time-card stamped by the City of Mobile at 10:40. [*There were two cars in the medium near the victim’s home and one was a brown vehicle owned by a mechanic working on a car when the crimes took place. Both the mechanic and the owner of the car he was working on testified to this and both identified the person who confessed and the person who confessed said he saw them.(begins at pg 585 for Dortch http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf and pg 713 for Mauldin, the mechanic: http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part4half-Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161950.pdf – ]
About the Crime Scene
Prichard Police Captain Dees testified that he arrived at the victim’s home at 11:20 am, the same time the paramedics arrived, he said. Sgt. Eddie Ragland testified under oath that he did not arrive at the victim’s house until two days later (Wednesday) and that he was not able to gather any fingerprints or collect any evidence.
Captain Dees, along with neighbors, reported that the living room furniture was overturned. A neighbor reported that this is how the victim generally did her cleaning. Captain Dees also reported that he located the victim in a back bedroom:
“Yes, when I went in the living room, the furniture was turned upside down and I went to the back bedroom where I saw the lady laying, in the back room on the floor by the bed with not a pillow but some pants under her head. ”
The above quote is from Captain Dees’ testimony. Page 131: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/F_Dees.255145443.pdf
Terrell Moore, the person who confessed, said he turned over the furniture and while the victim was originally in the living room, the shooter, who he identified as Angel “Wish” Melendez, took the victim to a back room where he shot her. This is another important point because during Rodney’s Rule 32 (Post Conviction) hearing, Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney questions Private Investigator Ryan Russell, who located Moore in 1992 and interviewed him on tape. Russell says during the 2001 Rule 32 hearing that he hadn’t read Moore’s confession made before then prosecutor Buzz Jordan in a while, but believes he recalls Moore stating that the victim was shot in the bedroom. Here is the exchange:
Martha Tierney: And let me ask you, sir. Did you ever visit the scene of the crime?
Ryan Russell: Yes, ma’am.
Tierney: Okay, then you must certainly have been aware that she was not shot in the bedroom, she was shot in the living room…. And your witness Moore said she was shot in the bedroom, did that not cause you some pause? ….. If I represent to you that this recorded statement in Mr. Clark’s office is the statement Terrell Moore gave wherein he said that the shooting occurred in the back bedroom, that certainly would be inconsistent then with all the forensics and I.D. people who identified the place of the crime being in the middle of the house in the living room, right?
Russell: Yes ma’am, but in my— (he gets cut off by Tierney)
Tierney- All right. That is all—
Russell: statement, I know what he told me.
Tierney: Thank you, sir.
So, Tierney was incorrect about where the shooting occurred and according to Eddie Ragland, the officer responsible for gathering forensics, no evidence was taken from the house short of photos! http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/E_Ragland.255145555.pdf Is the District Attorney’s Office saying that they had forensics? If so, maybe they can come forward about any evidence that was collected but “lost” before Rodney’s trial. So let’s put her question to Russell back to her. Ms. Tierney, if you stated that forensics say the shooting occurred in the living room and Captain Dees who was the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene says that he found the victim in a bedroom, surrounded by blood, does that not give you pause!!!!!? It should as it means Moore was correct, just as he described the home as only someone who was there would, he stated in which room the victim was shot, validated by Prichard Police Captain Frank Dees.
One final point. There were two people at the victim’s house, the person who confessed and the shooter. Terrell Moore, the person who confessed, said that it was only he and Angel “Wish” Melendez at the house. Rodney had nothing to do with these crimes and that he got in contact with Melendez when he was paid $150.00 to drive them around while they were here as Rodney was not going to take off work. Donnard “Taco” Jones introduced Moore to Wish and Rene Whitecloud, as he also testified. See this link- http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away By perpetuating a murder for hire scheme orchestrated by the victim’s husband, it is not convenient for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to believe Moore’s testimony. Keep in mind, they (the Mobile District Attorney’s Office) never tried anyone except for Rodney and even the person they claimed was the shooter, Rene Whitecloud, was never tried, even though the Prosecutor Buzz Jordan/the Mobile District Attorney’s Office told the jury and the media that he would. They got a wrongful conviction and they were going to move on, end of story. So when Moore was in the county lock-up and located by Rodney’s attorney during Rodney’s Rule 32 hearing in 2001, he was going to testify, essentially restating his confession. In sum:
Martha Tierney to Terrell Moore- You Talk, You Get Life.
Buzz Jordan on Terrell Moore- I Never Believed He Was Involved with these crimes and never will believe it.
Terrell Moore on Terrell Moore- I was involved, I was at the house, I saw who shot Ms. Finley, and it was Angel Wish Melendez- we were the only two at the house, Rodney had nothing to do with this.
It is a sad day when the person who commits a crime is more truthful than the people paid by taxpayers to uphold the law.
(Again, read Moore’s confession found here http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_confession-_testimonial_immunity_agreement and this investigative piece: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley)
I have come to the conclusion that an additional travesty of a wrongful conviction is that prosecutors within the same office sanction it; they do everything necessary to uphold that wrongful conviction. This is neither pro-victim nor pro-justice. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, prosecutors are necessary and needed. The vast majority of times, they do the right thing. But during those times when a wrongful conviction has occurred, rather than acknowledging a wrong, they double-down, thus further perpetuating an injustice. Why would a prosecutor want to put his/her reputation on the line to defend practices that lead to a wrongful conviction? Perhaps because there is no punishment in it, heck, you might just get promoted by the next DA.
PS What Can You Do- please click on: http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/what_can_you_do-road_to_parole_hearing
Please call District Attorney Ashley Rich to request that he works to obtain parole for Rodney K. Stanberry: (251) 574-8400
Because this prosecutor let a guilty man go, an innocent man remains in prison. Because this prosecutor refused to acknowledge who shot Ms. Finley because he died before Rodney’s trial, an innocent man remains in prison. Because this prosecutor did not even attempt to prosecute the person the State claims was the actual shooter (Rene Whitecloud), an innocent man remains in prison, and a victim never truly received actual justice. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted. Please read Time Served or Justice Denied, by Bill Riales.
Rodney K. Stanberry has an upcoming parole hearing, because he refuses to admit guilt for crimes he did not commit, his parole likely will be denied again. Where is the justice? Please consider signing and sharing this petition in support of his parole.