November 29th, 2015
The Sport of Boxing and The Arena of Prosecutors- Fighting Against Wrongful Convictions
Many believe that boxing is a barbaric sport. A boxing match consists of two individuals, in peak condition, inflicting as much pain and blows to the body as possible until the match concludes. The optimum conclusion is a knockout- that knock-out punch that keeps an opponent down for the count. Right jab, left jab, right jab, upper cut and then come back with a powerful right hook, a few more blows to the body if the opponent survives this and Boom, it’s over. I am not a boxing fan. There are epic matches such as the Ali- Frazier 1971 fight that live on in the memory of many, and then there are the “matches” fought by once imprisoned boxer Dewey Bozella. As mentioned in this article entitled Dewey Bozella’s Next Challenge: Life on the Outside: “At 23, he went to prison and didn’t re-emerge until he was 50, finally exonerated and vindicated. Twenty-six and a half years, gone — eight more than Rubin “Hurricane” Carter did, by the way. He walks with a limp but retains the vigor and energy of a young man.” https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/dewey-bozellas-next-challenge-life-on-the-outside
Dewey Bozella was wrongfully convicted solely on the testimony of two people who had their sentences reduced in return for saying that Bozella committed a murder. I’ve written about this case a few times before and what stood out for me then is what continues to stand out now, and that is his refusal to say he was guilty for crimes that he did not commit, even if it would have gotten him an early release date. My cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, might have been out of prison many years ago if he played this game, but you can’t give in to a falsehood. The truth and one’s integrity is all that one has when the system- represented by district attorneys and some in law enforcement- decide that you are the one they want, even if you are innocent. So one must fight for the truth, in the arena where prosecutors see the truth as a casualty of the convict and maintain convictions at all cost world that is their arena.
Bozella’s toughest match was not in a boxing ring with an opponent- rather, it was with a prosecutor and a judicial system that placed many blows to his body and soul. The 23 year old could not withstand the blows of the system, but he kept fighting and remained true to himself. The world of wrongful convictions is barbaric. The only people who may not think so are the prosecutors who get them. As I’ve said frequently, prosecutors are needed and they do have tough jobs, but the prosecutors who knowingly convict innocent people and/or that fight to keep them in prison should begin yesterday to do what is fair, right and just. No one wins- except for prosecutors- when an innocent person is convicted.
The Case of Glenn Ford
There are prosecutors who will never admit that the system has failed. Take the District Attorney who finally worked to exonerate Glenn Ford after he spent 30 years in prison. Here is an interview conducted by 60 Minutes:
“Bill Whitaker: Did Mr. Ford get justice in this case?
Dale Cox: I think he has– gotten delayed justice.
Dale Cox, the acting district attorney of Caddo Parish, got Glenn Ford released after receiving the informant’s information. As he sees it, the justice system worked and no one, including Marty Stroud, did anything wrong.
Dale Cox: I don’t know what it is he’s apologizing for. I think he’s wrong in that the system did not fail Mr. Ford.
Bill Whitaker: It did not?
Dale Cox: It did not…in fact…
Bill Whitaker: How can you say that?
Dale Cox: Because he’s not on death row. And that’s how I can say it.
Bill Whitaker: Getting out of prison after 30 years is justice?
Dale Cox: Well, it’s better than dying there and it’s better than being executed—-
There may be no more controversial prosecutor in the U.S. than Dale Cox. Between 2010 and 2014, his Caddo Parish office put more people on death row per capita than anywhere else in the country. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/30-years-on-death-row-exoneration-60-minutes/
It should be noted that the original prosecutor in Ford’s case, Marty Shroud III, apologized 3 decades later and apologized for the type of prosecutor he was. He said:
“There was no technicality here. Crafty lawyering did not secure the release of a criminal. Mr. Ford spent 30 years of his life in a small, dingy cell. His surroundings were dire. Lighting was poor, heating and cooling were almost non-existent, food bordered on the uneatable. Nobody wanted to be accused of “coddling” a death row inmate.
But Mr. Ford never gave up. He continued the fight for his innocence. And it finally paid off.”
Glenn Ford died in June 2015 at the age of 65. When he was in his early 30s, he was sentenced to death row. Shroud, who got his conviction, said this: “In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning. To borrow a phrase from Al Pacino in the movie “And Justice for All,” “Winning became everything.” While Shroud likely has a nice retirement plan, Glen ford was not compensated for the 30 years of his life that was taken away. And his memory of his release was this:
Glenn Ford: What law is this? I never heard of such law where it says it’s OK to do what they did to me without any type of compensation.
There was some compensation. Glenn Ford was given a $20 gift card the day he left Angola prison.
Glenn Ford: Gave me a card for $20 and said “Wish you luck.”
Bill Whitaker: How long did that last you?
Glenn Ford: One meal. I had some fried chicken, tea and the French fries came with it. I had $4 and change left.
Bill Whitaker: After 30 years in prison?
Glenn Ford: Right.
Bill Whitaker: Thirty years on death row in solitary confinement and the state of Louisiana releases Mr. Ford with a $20 gift card. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/30-years-on-death-row-exoneration-60-minutes/
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter also intimately understood that his toughest opponent was not one in the boxing, rather a system that wants to convict and forget, a system that things it key to survival is to refuse to acknowledge and remedy conditions that lead to a wrongful conviction. I wrote the following upon his death in April 2014:
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.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/hurricane-carter-dying-article-1.1621747#ixzz2zSGIYJ3u”
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. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2014/06/22/innocent-and-imprisoned-in-alabama-birthdays-fathers-days-and-the-marking-of-the-years/
Rubin’s fight for justice in the case of David McCallum likely helped to gain his release after he spent 29 years in prison. (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/09/8-exonerated-prisoners-first-week-outside.html and http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/10/09/to-be-free-and-exonerated-in-a-fair-and-just-world/)
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter understood that you have to continue the fight until the end because the system is continuous, will try to take you beyond the rounds of a match that the innocent prepare for as the innocent person naively believes, during those crucial early rounds especially, that the system is fair and just- at all times, not 3 decades later.
Carter’s fight with prosecutors that put on their boxing gloves and enter the ring with an arrogance worthy of those with the power on their side continued beyond his exoneration and it continues beyond his death. Prosecutors have the advantage in their arena; their reach is longer, allowing them to inflict the most damage to the defendant- their natural opponent. And there is no shortage of prize fighters who hold the same attitude as prosecutor Shroud: “In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” And on occasion when the prosecutor’s opponent seems formidable, ie having a solid alibi-being at work when a crime took place, a confession by the person who actually committed the crime and so on, the prosecutor needs to be sure that he/she has some advantage, perhaps by hitting below the belt (ie withholding evidence), or taking a sucker punch just after the bell rings indicating that a round is over (ie suppressing evidence that would clear a defendant at the start of the trial), or by planting in a referee’s (the judge/jury) that the opponent is a dirty fighter and therefore can’t be trusted-therefore, every call must go our way. Prosecutors have an advantage in our system.
I recently watched the movie Creed. Michael B. Jordan, who played the son of Apollo Creed, was an inexperienced fighter who got the chance of a lifetime to fight a bigger (both in size and in name), more resourced, more established fighter. It didn’t hurt that he had Rocky Balboa in his corner training him. For those of us fighting on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, we cannot always have a Rocky Balboa, that is to say a Barry Scheck, a Bryan Stevenson, a large law firm looking to do pro bono work, rather, we have to be the Creed to the “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (see the movie), and we have to take it one step at a time, we have to go round by round, even though the system tries to deliver a technical knockout- standing behind a jury’s decision, even though they know they misled the jury, by refusing to reopen a case, letting the victim/victim’s family believe that they (the prosecutor) got it right so they won’t question the decision and accept false closure, or by running out the clock to ensure that an innocent inmate will not get a day in court and will not be exonerated. Yes, the prosecutors are the Apollo Creeds, the Muhummad Ali’s (much respect), brash, sure of themselves, ready to take on all challengers, but advocates must continue to fight, round by round, even though it hurts to know that they system is not designed to help the wrongfully convicted, even though the system is stacked against you with State Bar Associations unwilling to do the necessary policing of prosecutors, even though you will never have the resources that they have to bring about justice.
In the end, even if an inmate is never exonerated, society will know that a prosecutor willingly and knowingly allowed for an innocent person to be incarcerated and that the system protected this act. It is a moral victory, but at the end of the 16th round, the prosecutors may have won the fight, but you’ve won the battle and hopefully others who are in the same situation will take on the fight. The justice loving community has to continue to chant “ justice, justice, justice” so that it can reverberate not only in the arena of a boxing match, but throughout society so that more prosecutors can mimic the work of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson who secured the release of David McCullom and 13 others during his short tenure as District attorney-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lorenzo-johnson/meet-the-prosecutor-fighting-to-overturn-wrongful-convictions_b_8617584.html As I wrote before, There are so few prosecutors that would acknowledge what DA Kenneth Thompson acknowledged: “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.” http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/10/09/to-be-free-and-exonerated-in-a-fair-and-just-world/ When my cousin, Rodney K. Stanberry, was convicted in 1995 by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, prosecutor Buzz Jordan (seen in this video), ignored a confession by the actual culprit, ignored evidence that Rodney was at work, and ignored evidence demonstrating Rodney’s innocence. Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, Jr. defended Jordan’s work, as did Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney who remained silent, upon hearing Jordan say in Rodney’ Rule 32 (appeal) hearing that he traveled to New York’s Rikers Island Prison from Mobile to interview a suspect, but took no notes because he was on vacation,” and current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich continues to sanction the prosecution and conviction of an innocent man. She would NEVER say that she inherited a legacy of disgrace when it comes to wrongful convictions even as her lead attorney was accused by a judge of engaging in prosecutorial misconduct in the William Ziegler case (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2015/04/23/who-will-hold-prosecutors-accountable-for-their-actions-the-case-of-william-j-ziegler/). Prosecutors can recover from the occasional loss of a fight because in their world, it can take decades before another loss occurs. By then, they are reflecting and maybe apologizing for the prosecutor they were as opposed being the prosecutor who pursues justice over convictions, that pursues honestly above deception, that pursues the truth over maintaining the conviction. Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson and former Dallas County, Texas DA Craig Watkins are role models for this, I am thankful for them. What about your local District Attorney? Most District Attorneys are elected officials, you can be more than a spectator by using your vote to help make a difference.
Articles of Interest:
And although Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich is does not have an opponent for her upcoming District Attorney’s race, you can contact her office to encourage her to reopen Rodney’s case, address wrongful convictions by establishing a conviction integrity unit, and ensure that public that the truth is more important than the conviction. She can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or firstname.lastname@example.org