August 3, 2015
The Ongoing Consequences of Convicting the Innocent-The Responsibility of District Attorneys
Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich: “Petitions are great. A group of citizens banding together can move mountains.” Radio Interview, Friday, July 24th, 2015.
Last week, we learned of the death of Alprentiss Nash. Mr. Nash spent 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. As reported in The Guardian, “He was released in August 2012 after DNA tests on a ski mask recovered from the scene matched the genetic profile of another man.” On Tuesday, July 28th, Mr. Nash was shot and killed, just three years after he obtained his freedom, he was 40 years old. Mr. Nash spent nearly half of his life accused and incarcerated for a crime that he did not commit. When we think about the years lost for those sitting in prison, innocent and incarcerated, we have to think about how much time they have on this earth, how many family members have died since their incarceration, and how many key milestones that we all take for granted that the inmate has missed. At 40 years old, Mr. Nash still had so much life to live, at 20, when he would have entered the prison system as one who was wrongfully convicted, he could only dream of the day of his exoneration, not imagining that he would be locked up for literally half of his lifetime. I don’t know much about Mr. Nash, nor his case, but I do know that the nation should be outraged that there were, are, and will continue to be innocent people who are serving time in prison for crimes they did not commit. Mistakes are made, I understand that reality, but when actions by prosecutors are intentional, either in getting the wrongful conviction or in ensuring that a person that may actually be innocent remains in prison simply because a District Attorney doesn’t want to acknowledge ethical violations, to put it lightly, these actions become inexcusable and should not be tolerated- it should not be tolerated by State Bar Associations, nor by citizens who look for District Attorneys to prosecute people who commit crimes without resorting to prosecuting people for some personal reason or because it is an easy path to get a conviction.
About that Mask-If Prosecutors Know They Won’t Like Results of DNA Evidence, Do They “Lose” The Evidence?
Alprentiss Nash’s case sticks out to me because similar to Rodney K. Stanberry, he was convicted in 1995, also similar to Rodney’s case, a mask went “missing.” A Prichard Police Officer claimed to not have retrieved a mask, yet, he took a photo of it and the victim’s husband said (in court) that he actually did collect the mask. Please review Officer Ragland’s testimony at Rodney’s trial as it includes the discussion about the mask and gloves. At the time when the crimes were committed, he worked in the Identification Division of the Prichard Police Department. And, as you will see when reading his testimony, after Rodney’s attorney questions him about whether he would typically do a DNA hair analysis on the mask, prosecutor Buzz Jordan comes back with this on redirect examination: Jordan: You are not any kind of DNA- you have no qualifications on DNA, do you? Ragland: No, I have no expertise on DNA at all. Jordan: And you have no qualifications on hair analysis Ragland: None. Jordan: And you don’t have any of the facts of this event, do you? Ragland: No. And it goes on like that. Again, here is the link to Officer Ragland’s testimony. So why was Rodney’s attorney pressing on the issue of the missing mask and gloves? Because the person who confessed to being one of the two people at the victim’s house when she was brutally shot said that his accomplice initially wore a mask. The Mobile District Attorney’s office, to this day, prefers to pretend that the person who actually shot the victim did not exist. Here is a link entitled “The Shooter, What They Want to Wish Away.” The Mobile DA’s Office wants to pretend that Angel “Wish” Melendez never existed and that Terrell Moore, the individual who confessed BEFORE Rodney’s trial was not actually involved in these crimes. Here is a link to the confession. It would be a joke were it not so serious- a serious letdown by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office as they continue to ignore the truth and to dismiss evidence leading to the truth, favoring, instead, to pursue the conviction of an innocent man and spending nearly two decades to ensure that that innocent man remains in prison. Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich can be instrumental in seeking the truth, actual justice for the victim, and exonerating an innocent man. Justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted.
It was convenient for Jordan to not have the mask as an issue, so Officer Ragland not recalling if he actually took the mask and gloves as opposed to just taking photos of them was convenient. Testing the DNA on the mask would have further proved Rodney’s innocence so guess what was “lost/missing” before Rodney’s trial and probably will never be found? The mask. The hair analysis would have demonstrated that the person the DA’s office claimed did not actually exist, did exist. Alprentiss Nash was finally able to get the mask used in his case tested- after 17 years in prison, he was finally exonerated. But look how long the fight was to test an object that would have cleared an innocent man. Do DA’s not care that when they focus on the innocent, that the actual guilty culprits get to remain free- free to commit more crimes? Do they not care about the victims of those crimes? Do they not care when innocent people sit in prison day after day, week after week, year after year, and sometimes decade after decade? Alprentiss Nash was able to live just three years after spending 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Sad and a shame. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/29/chicago-man-released-prison-shot
DA Rich Encourages Activism? A group of people banding together can move mountains.
At the top of this blog is a quote by current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich during a recent appearance on a Mobile, Alabama radio show. She said it in response to a caller praising her and asking for the impeachment of an elected official that she can’t discuss pending cases, but petitions are great. A group of people banding together can move mountains (it is towards the end of the show)
So many people have contacted the Mobile District Attorney’s Office about Rodney’s case for years. In fact, during DA Ashley Rich’s first 30 days in office, she received so many emails and telephone calls about Rodney’s case that her Chief Investigator (Mike Morgan) actually called people to ask about their interest in Rodney’s case! That same Chief Investigator responded to questions about Rodney’s case in this article about Rodney’s case written by Kirsten West Savali- http://newsone.com/1809115/rodney-k-stanberry-is-alabama-still-the-land-of-jim-crow/. The actions of Mike Morgan, Chief Investigator for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, would not have happened without an engaged citizenry. But this is not enough; District Attorney Ashley Rich must reopen Rodney’s case, in a serious manner. She must make an effort to locate the mask and gloves since, as former DA John Tyson, Jr. stated, they don’t throw away evidence, they never have and they never will (well, we now know that this may not be the case as when a judge forced the Mobile DA’s Office to locate evidence in the William Ziegler case- recently released from death row and from prison, ADA Tillman said that she and Morgan looked for the evidence, but could not locate it) Convenient, isn’t it. So, over the course of the next two years (and even beyond two years as our destination is exoneration), I will ask you to continue to contact the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to ask for action on the mask and gloves, reopening Rodney’s case, reviewing and investigating how Buzz Jordan handled an actual confession, and to what extent did Jordan taint this case by talking about a bitter divorce and child custody issues (see page 223 of the trial transcript and then carefully read the victim’s testimony, which can be found on our webpage- http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/part2half1Stanberry_transcriptcopy_ppa2.289161819.pdf). As I stated in one of my first letters to District Attorney Ashley Rich: “It isn’t the victim’s fault, it is the system’s fault for dismissing all evidence, for the way the pseudo “photo lineups” was conducted, for dismissing a confession, engaging in poor tactics that even the judge condemned away from the jury, and otherwise influencing the victim because his prosecution hung only on her testimony (child custody issue, for example). Just as I am sure that John Tyson, Jr. would have handled this case differently had he not been sworn in less than a year before the trial, I am sure that you want to do what is right and fully investigate and reopen Rodney K. Stanberry’s case.” (You can find the complete letter by clicking on the link that begins with Oct. 11 on the call to action page- http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/call_to_action-) . Keep in mind, Jordan floated around a murder for hire theory so that even if the jury could figure out that Rodney could not have been at the victim’s house, that maybe he was involved in some murder for hire scheme. Jordan never charged anyone with this, but letting it hang out there and mentioning to the judge (Ferrill McRae) that there is a bitter divorce and a child custody issue will be decided after the trial is tainting the trial to get an outcome in his favor, if not in favor of actual justice.
It was and remains an absolute travesty what happened to the victim in this case as she, nor her family, deserved any of this. It was and remains a travesty for Rodney and his family as they did not deserve this, either. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office could very well have convicted the actual culprits, but, for some reason only Jordan can explain, they settled on an innocent man. When district attorneys such as Ashley Rich refuse to acknowledge wrongful convictions, they shake confidence in the system. District Attorney Ashley Rich in her aforementioned interview spent a lot of time talking about how she lacks funding, her opposition to the recently passed prison reform bill, a bill designed to address Alabama’s prison overcrowding issues, and reinforcing her general tough on crime persona. When a DA candidate for another county was on the same show, but a week later, he mentioned something that Rich should also address: training for Assistant District Attorneys, no matter how long they’ve been there. She should reiterate what is exculpatory evidence, the need to maintain evidence, and to understand when there is actually enough evidence to pursue a case. And she should definitely emphasize that her ADAs should not manipulate witnesses, even when they have no evidence to pursue a case. I will post a couple of petitions to be signed and, from time to time, ask that you contact her office. Here is sample of a petition recently posted on change.org, please read it. She can be the District Attorney to bring about the truth AND justice regarding Rodney’s case. She can do the right thing and free Rodney K. Stanberry. And we will see if she meant what she said about petitions being great and her belief that a group of citizens banding together can move mountains. How big of a mountain will she be in pursuit of actual justice?
Wrongful Convictions- Too Many Cases, Too Few Exonerations
A recent article entitled “The Staggering Number of Wrongful Convictions” reinforces the reality of wrongful convictions and how difficult it is to get exonerated. The article was written by Samuel R. Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan who is also the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations. Consider this paragraph from his article recently posted in the Washington Post “Suarez served three years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The average time served for the 1,625 exonerated individuals in the registry is more than nine years. Last year, three innocent murder defendants in Cleveland were exonerated 39 years after they were convicted — they spent their entire adult lives in prison — and even they were lucky: We know without doubt that the vast majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of crimes are never identified and cleared.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-convicting-the-innocent/2015/07/24/260fc3a2-1aae-11e5-93b7-5eddc056ad8a_story.html?postshare=2661437881896842
Rodney K. Stanberry is on his 18th year in prison for crimes he did not commit. The crimes for which he is accused took place in 1992, he was convicted in 1995 and began serving his prison term (three 20 year sentences to be served concurrently) in 1997. His father is now in his eighties, his mother has died, and his son born shortly before his incarceration graduated from high school this year- Rodney was not allowed to attend his graduation. It is never too late for the Mobile District Attorney’s Office to do the right thing.
District Attorney Ashley Rich is up for reelection. As of now she does not have an opponent as far as I can tell at this time. The primary election is in March 2016 and the general election is in November 2016. During her last campaign, I asked her and her opponent about establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit. Here is a sample of the responses from the two. DA Rich has not demonstrated that she is interested in pursuing true justice in cases that have come before here where the person convicted may actually be innocent. Therefore, we must endeavor to put into action what she said about petitions and citizens banding together. I will write a new petition an post in the near future, in the meantime, you can contact DA Ashley Rich by calling (251) 574-8400, (251) 574-5000, and/or Ashley Rich – District Attorney – 251-574-6685 – firstname.lastname@example.org.