Texas Bar Association Sues Prosecutor, Why Should We Care

Texas Bar Association Sues Prosecutor, Why Should We Care
What a headline. It is a welcomed headline. Michael Morton spent 25 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Before Morton was convicted, then Williamson County, Texas District Attorney Ken Anderson apparently had evidence that could prove Morton’s innocence before his trial, but did not reveal the evidence to his attorney, nor to the jury. For twenty-five long years, Morton lived in a prison, deprived of his freedom, his family, and his finances, while Ken Anderson went on to become a judge, basking in the number of convictions that secure promotions in the convict at all cost culture that exists in far too many district attorney offices. Anderson’s successor continued to deprive Morton of his rights as a human being who should never be confined for crimes not committed by denying him an opportunity to get DNA testing on a bandana that could prove his innocence; this is after Morton spent nearly two decades in prison. It was when the DNA was actually tested that Morton was able to walk out of prison an innocent man. During his time in prison, he not only had to live with the title of wife killer, but he also saw his own son, on his 18th birthday, change his name; his son had been convinced by Morton’s in-laws that his dad murdered his mother. Imagine what that was like. Morton said that one day when he was at his lowest moments that he relied on his faith one last time. “A God if you are listening to me please show yourself” type of moment. He reports that he received the sign that he was looking for and that is what carried him throughout the remainder of the time he spent in prison ((http://www.npr.org/2012/04/28/150996459/free-after-25-years-a-tale-of-murder-and-injustice).
What also happened while Morton was arrested and the sole focus of the investigation is that the person who actually killed Morton’s wife, Christina, is suspected of killing another female in the same mode as Morton’s wife was murdered. This individual will soon be tried for the death of Christina Morton- more than 25 years later, 25 years after her husband and father of her child spent a nightmarish time in prison as an innocent. The family of the woman later killed by Christina Morton’s killer felt betrayed because if law enforcement hadn’t focused on Morton and followed leads, their loved one likely would not have been brutally murdered. The victim’s family in that case supported the opponent of Anderson’s successor and he lost in the Republican Primary in Williamson to Jana Duty (http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/morton-case-was-focus-of-jana-dutys-campaign-to-ou/nRn84/).
Is it Time to Stop Coddling Prosecutors Who Behave Badly?
Recently, CNN reporter Don Lemon sent the following tweet:
Did u see the video of detroit bus driver punching the unruly passenger? Is it time to stop coddling people who behave badely? Now on #CNN (Saturday, October 20, 2012)
My response:
@donlemoncnn Texas Bar sues prosecutor over wrongful conviction. Should we stop coddling prosecutors? http://www.kvue.com/news/national/174957211.html … #prison
I replied that the Texas Bar Association is suing a prosecutor for his role in sending and keeping an innocent man in prison. When are we going to stop coddling prosecutors who misbehave badly? Of course I got no response, but I think this is a question that society must address. There are far too many innocent people in prison- one is too many (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/07/22/a-step-in-the-right-direction-giving-the-wrongfully-convicted-a-chance-at-justice/) The victim’s family in Williamson County understood far too intimately the consequences of the convict at all cost mentality- when the wrong person is convicted, the actual perpetrator of the crimes goes free. Willie Grimes, who served more than 2 decades in prison for a crime he did not commit was recently exonerated by the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission- another entity needed in EVERY STATE. The police actually had another suspect before Grimes went to the police station because he heard they were looking for him, only to be deprived of the opportunity to return to his home for more than two decades. The actual rapist was not immediately apprehended, thus his crime spree continued. Damon Thibodeaux became the 300th person exonerated via the use of DNA testing (http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Damon_Thibodeaux_Roundup_300_and_Counting.php.) Thibodeaux spent 15 years on death row, in solitary confinement in one of the most notorious prisons in the country- Angola. No one was ever convicted for the actual murder for which he served all of these years.
If law enforcement would follow the evidence and not a theory, more criminals would be convicted and more innocent people will be able to continue to live their lives as productive citizens without being scarred for life, without bearing the burden of criminal, inmate, a number, a scourge of the earth. I once wrote a blog entitled “The Prosecutor and the Criminal” because of the ways in which some prosecutors behave to get a conviction. So, again, when Mr. Lemon asks when will we stop coddling people who engage in bad behavior, I ask when will we stop coddling prosecutors who behave badly?
The Case of Rodney K. Stanberry
Rodney K. Stanberry is in prison for crimes he did not commit. March 2013 will make year 16. Rodney is in prison for attempted murder, 1st degree burglary, and 1st degree robbery. He received three 20 year sentences to be served concurrently. If justice doesn’t prevail, he will be in prison until 2017. He was arrested in 1992, convicted in 1995, and began serving his sentence in 1997. He was in his twenties; he is now in his forties, two decades of injustice. Rodney did not have a criminal background, he had a steady job, he came from a solidly middle-class two-parent family, and his role in trying to play crime-fighter rendered him a suspect and then an inmate. He was convicted even though another individual confessed to being one of the two individuals at the victim’s home when she was shot. He absolutely exonerated Rodney and he had no incentive to lie to cover for Rodney, as the prosecutor in Rodney’s case claim, as they were not friends, and the person who confessed was on probation. He was convicted in spite of the evidence, including testimony from his supervisor and co-workers, that he was at work. He was convicted in spite of the fact that the person the Assistant District Attorney (Buzz Jordan) with the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office claimed was the shooter, also exonerated Rodney. With all of this, how was he convicted? The victim identified him as being at her house. Case closed, right? That is what the Mobile District Attorney’s Office wants the public to believe. Rodney was at work at the same job he had from 1989 until he began serving his prison sentence- his employers knew he was innocent so they did not fire him after he was accused of this brutal crime (Listen to his supervisor towards the end of this broadcast: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=119.) When Rodney discovered that one or both of his friends that he invited from New York was involved in robbing the victim’s house (he also discovered that she was shot later), he took off work and went to the Prichard Police Department to help them apprehend his friends who were returning to New York on a bus, he provided names, photos, everything he could. The Prichard Police then used those photos and placed them in from of the victim and said which of these individuals could have been at your house. This is after he indicated that she did not know who shot her. The police detective said squeeze my finger if any of these individuals COULD HAVE Been at your house. Rodney was frequently at her house. After she squeezed his fingers out of recognition, and officer in the room said he did it. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office would soon have much evidence indicating that the power of suggestion based on showing her a picture would have tainted her memory of the events, but they opted to move forward with what would likely be an easy conviction- an eyewitness who knows her accuser. She remembered what she would have seen on any given Sunday, Rodney, his girlfriend and his bronco in her driveway, which is why the prosecutor went to Rodney’s girlfriend’s job to check her work records. The prosecutors would discover in addition to the confession, that eyewitnesses on the ground identified the person who confessed and his vehicle as being in the victim’s driveway. All of this became secondary because they were going for the easy conviction. So here is my theory as to why the prosecutors opted to move forward to convict an innocent man:
1) Who would care? The victim was shot, Rodney knew the shooter, if he wasn’t involved with this, maybe he was involved in something else
2) The prosecutor had convinced the victim and family that this was a murder for hire scheme, so when the person who confessed came forward, he didn’t want to admit that he was wrong
3) The actual shooter, Angel “Wish” Melendez died in a violent shoot-out in New York before the trial, so it was easier for them to pretend he didn’t exist (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away)
4) The person the prosecutor’s office would say was the shooter had been sentenced to a long prison sentence in New York, so why bother bringing him to Mobile on charges
5) The victim had it in her mind that it was Rodney and she would sway the jury more than any evidence of innocence that the defense attorney would have.
Why the Alabama State Bar Should Get Involved
1) Exculpatory Evidence withheld. The prosecutor in Rodney’s case travelled to Rikers Island prison to visit the person he claimed was the shooter. However, he said he was in New York on vacation and decided to go to Rikers Island Prison to see if Rene Whitecloud actually existed. Rene Whitecloud sent a statement under the direction of New York police detective Michael Greco that has a date stamp of October 15, 1993. (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/key_documents_about_rodneys_case Click on “more documents to get to his statement). The Mobile DA’s office had a copy of this, they stamped it. This is another individual stating that Angel “Wish” Melendez was in Alabama and indicated that he shot the victim.
It was through Greco that he would get into the prison system in New York, by his own admission at Rodney’s Rule 32 Post Conviction hearing. If he went through all of this trouble, he took notes. If Rene was a suspect, he took notes. Prosecutor Buzz Jordan told the media and the jury that Rene would be brought to Mobile to trial. But there were no notes? Former Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, Jr. said in a letter dated March 14th, 2004, that Jordan visited Rikers Island as part of his investigation: , he says that Jordan meticulously documented the case and went to New York to interview Rene (http://freerodneystanberry.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/09-07-2010_121703PM.24992718.BMP) During Rodney’s Rule 32 when Jordan was under oath, he says 1) he just happened to go to New York while on vacation and just stopped by Rikers Island prison where Rene was located, that he didn’t take notes, and that he learned little from Rene (although in another statement he says that Rene told him to look at the husband.) Did Rene actually exonerate Rodney but the prosecutor did not want to reveal this? On a side note, Ken Anderson, the former District Attorney being sued by the Texas bar Association said this to the jury based on a note Morton left on the bathroom mirror for his wife to read:
Williamson County District Attorney Ken Anderson used it to weave a sensational tale of unspeakable violence. In Anderson’s version of the crime, Morton used a wooden club to viciously bludgeon his wife’s head because she wouldn’t have sex with him. Then, in triumph over her body, he pleasured himself. The mild-mannered pharmacy manager was transformed into a sexually sick, murderous psychopath.
It was all a prosecutorial fantasy; none of it was true. Yet Anderson pounded his fists into his hands and wept to the jury as he described Morton’s perversity. Compared with this vivid picture of the crime, Morton’s defense didn’t have a lot to offer.” (see NPR reference above). The murder for hire scheme was pure fantasy by the prosecutor in Rodney’s case as well.
2) The Police Line-up that wasn’t. Rodney was not a suspect when he went to the police the day after the crime. He wanted to help them apprehend the people who came to Mobile to visit him. He wasn’t a criminal and did not want anyone to commit a crime so he did what law enforcement want people to do. Laying down pictures and asking a victim as she is waking up from a coma who could have been at your house is a recipe for a wrongful conviction. The Alabama Bar Association should look into this procedure
3) To what extent did the prosecutor positing a murder for hire scheme taint an actual investigation of the case and to what extent was evidence suppressed that did not fit this theory. There is more to say on this, but out of respect for the victim’s family, I will just say that the prosecutor, even when he said that he didn’t take notes when visiting Rikers Island did say that the person he visited said to look at the husband, or something to that effect. If it is believed that the husband/father is involved, in lieu of a charge, what punitive actions may have taken place instead. The testimony of the victim and her husband is at www.freerodneystanberry.com, read carefully, Alabama Bar.
4) Why is there no physical evidence available at trial? Was it collected? See this link- two Prichard police officers contradict one another about who was at the scene. Was evidence collected, if so, what happened to it? (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/prichard_police_captain_frank_dees_and_sergeant_eddie_ragland)
5) Confession-. Further, in the link below Jordan says that he never believed Moore and never will believe Moore. Jordan had his own theory and nothing else was going to change it, not even the evidence. I understand that the jury ruled against Rodney, but Tyson knows that the jury rules based on the information they are given. Jordan’s Motion in Limine coupled with Moore’s pleading the 5th limited what the jury was privy to. Jordan during the Rule 32 Hearing.
Said Rodney’s appellate attorney: The quote below is taken from a document drafted by Atty. Tim W. Flemming, December 13, 1996.
“In its brief, the state seeks to hide behind the ‘hearsay’ laws in justifying the exclusion of Mr. Moore’s testimony. Stanberry’s ‘hearsay’ arguments presented herein, coupled with immunity arguments warrant this court to reverse the defendant’s conviction and either render a verdict in his favor, or alternatively, remand this case for a new trial.
Mr. Stanberry is an innocent man, falsely accused, wrongfully convicted, even while possessing extraordinary evidence proving his innocence. The State’s meager attempts to pursue the leads provided by Mr. Moore are insulting to the ends of justice. Mr. Stanberry should be set free. At the very least, such incredible evidence, coupled with the extraordinary alibi evidence presented by him should warrant a new trial. If the law in
Alabama is such that Mr. Moore’s statements are inadmissible, then the law should be changed. It’s bad law. An innocent man should receive justice. Justice demands that Mr. Stanberry either be given a new trial, or that his conviction be reversed and rendered. As Judge Bell announced,
Alabama should change the law and allow this type of evidence to be admitted.” This was taken from an appeal made by Rodney’s appellant attorney Tim W. Fleming in 1996 (Response. SCT- Ex parte Rodney Karl Stanberry- Appellant’s Response to States Brief on the Merits of Petition for Writ of Certiorari, pg. 45-46. . (Note, Mr. Fleming worked for the Mobile DA’s office during the 1990s. Remember, Rodney was arrested in 1992, tried and convicted in 1995 and began serving his sentence in 1997).
There are just some concerns that the Alabama Bar Association should want to address in an effort to institute reforms that will prevent more innocent people from being convicted.
Jury convicts based on evidence presented and when prosecutors withhold evidence, they undermine the very essence of the jury system. Prosecutors behave badly when they manipulate honest and decent people of the jury pool who, upon learning that they convicted an innocent man, may feel pains of guilt. Prosecutors gain from these convictions, no one else does- except for the criminal that got away.
It is one of the most frustrating phenomena- that prosecutors care more about the conviction and maintaining a conviction than they care about the victim and the truth. In Rodney’s case, if the prosecutor and the police had actually pursued the perpetrators of the crime, they would have prevented murders from occurring, but being pro victim apparently doesn’t extend to people outside their jurisdiction. In Rodney’s case, if he hadn’t played crime fighter by discouraging the sell of weapons that would be taken to New York, even more people would have been murdered. It is truly a travesty of justice that he is in prison for crimes he did not commit, but the prosecutor in his case would never even lose his law license over the types of practices he used to get a wrongful conviction. DA Ashley Rich is sanctioning it. As mentioned, it is a very interesting phenomenon.
Rodney’s reward for 1) trying to keep guns from travelling to New York, 2) immediately
trying to apprehend the people he knew to be involved in the crimes, and 3) going to the police? He became a suspect and later an inmate in the Alabama Department of Corrections. The crimes occurred on March 2, 1992, Rodney was arrested in April 1992, he was convicted in 1995, and began serving a prison sentence for attempted murder, burglary, and robbery in 1997. He was in his 20s. It is 2012 and he is in his 40s, still in prison for crimes he did not commit. Imagine how many people would have been murdered in New York with guns purchased from Alabama if Rodney had said nothing and allowed his friends to accumulate as many weapons as they wanted. It is so ironic that the person without the criminal record and criminal mind who attempted to act to save lives is the one the Mobile District Attorney’s Office pursued and convicted for the brutal crime against the victim.
How was Michael Morton finally freed?
“His wife’s brother had found the bloody bandanna the police left later that day, and he turned it in. For years, Williamson County fought Morton’s requests to have the evidence in his case tested. Prosecutors ridiculed his efforts and taunted him, saying they’d consider DNA testing the evidence only if Morton would first take responsibility for the crime.
It was when a Texas appeals court finally ordered the bandanna DNA-tested last year that law enforcement’s arrogance was blown to pieces. After remaining silent tor months, Anderson, the former Williamson County district attorney and now a state judge, held a press conference.” ((http://www.npr.org/2012/04/28/150996459/free-after-25-years-a-tale-of-murder-and-injustice). Twenty-five years of his life will never be gotten back. When I hear that the Mobile District Attorney’s Office say that they will not reopen Rodney’s case unless there is new and compelling evidence, I think about the many years the Williamson County, DA said this to Morton and the many other prosecutors in wrongful conviction cases throughout the country.
At some point, the truth should matter, at some point, evidence of innocence should be a compelling interest. The news that the Texas bar is suing the ex-DA- Anderson- is very welcomed news and one can only hope that other Bar Associations will follow suit. When people understand that Rodney’s efforts to stop his friends from taking weapons to New York may have saved countless number of people from being harmed and murdered, when they understand that within 24 hours law enforcement could have captured people involved before they went to actually commit more crimes, they will see the consequences of a wrongful convictions. It leads one to wonder if the district attorneys are only pro-victim when it concerns their jurisdiction, and not what happens in others (and one is not pro-victim when one sanctions a wrongful conviction. Wrongful convictions offer true justice to no one). I’ve spoken with people in law enforcement who were astonished that a police officer would place a picture in front of a victim of a crime in a coma and ask who are you familiar with- or who could have been at your house. There are so many reasons as to why the Alabama Bar Association should step in, my requests to them in the past have been ignored, but one day, one day the truth will have to matter- the Texas Bar Association is demonstrating this.
Artemesia Stanberry
President of the Alabama State Bar (www.alabar.org):


Phillip Warren McCallum
McCallum Methvin & Terrell, PC
2201 Arlington Ave S
Birmingham, AL 35205-4003

Email: pwm@mmlaw.net

Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich (251) 574-6685 and Ashleyrich@mobileda.org
Chief Investigator Mike Morgan, Mobile District Attorney’s Office (251)-574-8400
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