Innocent and Imprisoned in Alabama- Birthdays, Father’s Days, and the Marking of the Years
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Her chief investigator, Michael Morgan, can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or via email at email@example.com.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Her chief investigator, Michael Morgan, can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or via email at email@example.com.