A National Day of Confession for District Attorneys: Sure, Why Not?

June 7, 2011

Blog Entry: A National Day of Confession for District Attorneys: Sure, Why Not?

First of all, what Rep. Weiner did in sending out the photos and in lying about it was absolutely wrong.  The Democratic Party, his constituents, and his advisors will decide whether he will keep his seat.  As I was reading about his admission that he did send out the photos, my initial response was “why not just be honest in the first place.” People believed him based on his word that his twitter account was hacked.  Sen. Charles Schumer defended him based on his word. His word was bond.  As I was watching all of this unfold, I thought about Rodney K. Stanberry and the people involved in his case that deny that any prosecutorial conduct took place (please go to www.freerodneystanberry.com) for information about his case.  I will not get into details about his case here, but between evidence that Rodney was at work when the crimes occurred, a confession by another individual, and Assistant District Attorney Buzz Jordan’s visiting Riker’s Island prison to see if the person he claimed was going to be brought back for trial actually existed, the shenanigans that went on in the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office, should be scrutinized.  

Rodney was arrested in 1992, tried and convicted in 1995, and began serving his prison sentence in 1997 (click Rodney, year 14 on www.freerodneystanberry.com).  He was a solidly middle class, hard working, law abiding citizen who owned his own car, parents owned home, sister was in college, and never missed a day of work since he began his employment at BFI in 1989. He worked at that same job until he had to begin his sentence. That is a testament to his character.  Rodney has exhausted his appeals, including a Rule 32 Post Conviction hearing where the Mobile DA’s office again made sure that the person who confessed would not do so on the stand. It was one of the many inconvenient truths of this case.  So, as I was watching this Weiner incident unfold, I was thinking that we should have a national get it off your chest/confession day. Specifically, I had district attorney’s around the country in mind. I was thinking about the DA’s similar to those in the Thompson v. Connick case where evidence withheld led to John Thompson spending 18 years of his life in prison and Gregory Taylor of North Carolina who spent 17 years of his life in prison from crimes he didn’t commit, or the many of those exonerated who spent a collective decades upon decades incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.  Since District Attorneys, including Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, refuse to establish a convictions integrity unit to help those already convicted and to put measures in place to reduce the chance that someone would be wrongfully convicted, a national day of confession without impunity would a good thing to do.  There are DA’s and former DA’s out there who know that they likely convicted the wrong person, but unlike Weiner, whose confession to sending out the photos and other back confessions, came within a week, these individuals seem to be content with never saying anything. Further, I am convinced that even if the Prichard Police Detectives, the former ADA, or others with intimate knowledge of Rodney’s case, including attorneys, were to go to DA Ashley Rich’s office today, that her reaction would be that that is in the past, I’m focusing on the future.  The fact that an innocent person is in his 15th year of incarceration due to the actions of the Mobile DA’s office would not factor into the equation. Afterall, Rodney’s conviction was part of former Mobile District Attorney John Tyson, Jr.’s “Murder Team, and one of the Assistant District Attorney’s from the “Murder Team” remains employed with the District Attorney’s office (this isn’t a bad thing, there needs to be good ADA’s who have a lot of integrity in DA Offices. I am CERTAINLY NOT anti-prosecutor, I am anti prosecutorial misconduct).  The media do not hold District Attorney’s s accountable. They don’t hound them about cases where there is evidence of innocence. They don’t ask them about what procedures are in place to ensure that wrongful convictions are minimal and what procedures they have in place to address past wrongful convictions.  This is why, with the exception of Dallas County  District Attorney Craig Watkins whose willingness to address wrongful convictions have led to the exoneration of 13-17  individuals since he became DA, District Attorneys can say well, we don’t have wrongful convictions or claim to have looked at cases themselves.  

DA Ashley Rich knows that Rodney has exhausted his appeals and she knows that the media will not spend multiple news cycles, if necessary, asking her about wrongful conviction cases, so there is no pressure to do what is right.  During her campaign, I asked her and her opponents (Erwin and Foster) if they’d agree to establish a conviction integrity unit and if they’d work with innocence projects.  Rich’s response was that the DA’s office reviews cases where there are questions of wrongful convictions and John Tyson, Jr. has sent me a couple of letters saying that Rodney’s case has been reviewed.  When there is a mentality in the DA’s office to uphold a conviction at all costs, having them to review cases will simply lead to a rubberstamp of previous misconduct (again, refer to Rodney’s Rule 32 hearing, portions of the transcript are on the webpage).  Rodney’s case should be reopened.  In addition, confessions should be made, the truth shall set you free.  If you stick to a story, you may not see it as a regrettable mistake (to paraphrase Weiner) but the impact on the criminal justice system is regrettable.  Ashley Rich is the first female District Attorney to be elected in Mobile County, Alabama.  I do wish her the best as she carries out her duties.  I hope she doesn’t resist the call for her to reopen Rodney’s case for fear of not looking tough on crime. It should not be a political liability to admit that mistakes were made, it should be a politically liability to resist calls to serious address a wrongful conviction.  You can call her office today and ask that Rodney’s case be reopened, not simply reviewed.   She can be reached at (251) 574-5000 or (251) 574-8400.  To reach her investigator Mike Morgan, please call (251) 574-8412 to reach his secretary.

Peace and Sincerely,

Artemesia Stanberry

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI  (YouTube video of WKRG Report featuring Buzz Jordan, the prosecuting attorney in Rodney’s case)

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