The Holiday Blues- Injustice Doesn’t Take a Holiday
December 23, 2013
This time of year is generally tough for me, for friends and family members of those wrongfully convicted, and, of course, for the prisoner who yearns for justice and freedom. I’m speaking as an advocate for someone who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. It is tough because at the end of the year, many are taking a break and/or are wrapping up work as the year concludes. Understanding this reality means that one has to wait out the holiday season with the hope that someone will open up an email and respond when January rolls around. For example, two years ago after reading a piece in Mother Jones by Beth Schwartzapfel entitled No County for Innocent Men about Timothy Cole, who died during his 13th year in prison for crimes he did not commit, I sent her an email praising her article and telling her about my cousin’s case, as is customary when I read about wrongful convictions. She said she would call me after the holidays- in January to talk more about Rodney’s case. Needless to say it was a long wait. It is not often that people respond when one reaches out to them, so when they do and state that they would like to talk more, it makes for a long wait while also wondering if the person would be interested when the stated date comes around. Fortunately, Beth was, and she would later write an extensive investigative article about my cousin’s case entitled Who Shot Valerie Finley .
Rodney K. Stanberry is on his 17th year in prison for crimes he did not commit. Every Christmas he is incarcerated is a Christmas away from his family and friends. Rodney came from a close-knit, two parent household. He has missed every Christmas at home with his family since 1997. His mother died on September 8th, 2012. Not only was he unable to spend the Christmas season with her, he was unable to attend her funeral. His parents had been married for as long as he has been alive- 44+ years. His father will be 80 years old in February. Rodney is spending another Christmas away from his now teen-aged son, a son who was a baby during Rodney’s first year of incarceration. You can imagine what his son would want for Christmas.
My first blog of this year (2013) was entitled A Relentless Pursuit of Justice and it included the following:
[Rodney has remained a strong father for his teenage son. Rodney and I have exchanged so many letters since his incarceration in 1997. At times, I review some of the letters. I recently found one that included what you see below. It is heartwrenching and heartbreaking but shows the love of a father towards his son and son towards father regardless of the situation both are in.
(August 2004 This begins on page 6) “Me and Tre (Rodney’s son, he was about 7 or 8 in 2004, 16 now) took a picture last month that I wanted to send you, wanted to! For some reason, I just can’t come off any pictures of my baby. Isn’t that natural though? My visit day is Sunday, but here’s what’s up. The Mitchell Center is putting on a hunting expo from 4pm to 8pm, so I plan to tell dad to cancel their trip up here, and take Tre there instead. He’ll love that! Darn (he used the other word), I gotta get out there to my baby, Art. Did I tell you what he said on the yard? I told him I love him more than most fathers who are out there with their sons. He said ‘I know dad, if you were out, we would be doing something right now.” That stuff (he used another word) made me feel so good, Art. Then he said something that hurt me and made me feel good at the same time….” ]
Another Christmas is upon us.
It is another year of Rodney K. Stanberry not being able to spend with his family as a free man. This year is even more difficult because it is the year that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles denied parole for Rodney. On Wednesday, August 28th, 2013, Rodney K. Stanberry was denied parole and he will not have another chance to appear before the parole board. His scheduled release date is March 2017. We truly believed that this would be the year that Rodney would be granted parole*. Here is an article by Beth Schwartzapfel regarding his parole denial. While Rodney is the one incarcerated and has been for 17 years, I feel a degree of hurt and pain, even though I am free. As we conclude this year with results that we didn’t hope for, I feel a different level of hurt and pain that comes with failing someone. I’ve gone over so many times what I could have done differently, who else could I have and should I have contacted, and wondering why I had (and have) so much faith and trust in a system that continues to perpetuate this injustice. I’ve said before that the feeling I’ve felt up to this point was like a heart ache, but now it is beyond that. Some days it takes every ounce of strength in me to not only continue to reach out to all who will listen, but to also be a stronger advocate when the New Year comes around. I wrote in a blog entitled The Continued Struggle for Freedom following his parole hearing what we still can do moving forward. It is our intent to continue to rally you all for your continued support and to keep up the battle to free an innocent man. Rodney is deserving of his freedom.
I try to think about Michael Morton, Greg Taylor, John Thompson, Darryl Hunt and so many others who spent year after year after year after year in prison as innocent people. They had a level of strength that few of us can imagine. Rodney has that strength. It is admirable. But each of the individuals I mentioned along with countless others depended (and depends) on people not forgetting them and not giving up on them. The odds are so high when it comes to overturning a conviction, but they are even higher if we do nothing, if we remain silent, if we are resigned to just accepting what the system deals out.
So I hope you all will continue to pay attention to Rodney’s case and to share his case with others. If you haven’t yet done so, please join the Free Rodney Stanberry Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/freerodneykstanberry/. And for more information about Rodney’s case, please go to www.freerodneystanberry.com.
Thank you for your time during this holiday season. You are truly appreciated.
Artemesia Stanberry is an advocate for Rodney K. Stanberry, who remains in prison for crimes he did not commit. In March of 2014, he will complete 17 full years, with three more still to go unless the judicial system corrects itself.
*Here is a WKRG TV (Mobile, AL) segment shortly before his parole hearing, a WKRG segment after his parole hearing, and a Mobile Press Register article before and after his parole hearing. Here is another piece published in the Boston Review regarding his parole denial. It is entitled Rehabilitation, Remose, and Innocence: Rodney Stanberry Tries for Parole.
PS At any time during the year, you can contact Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich to encourage her to reopen Rodney’s case. She can be reached at (251) 574-8400, (251) 574-5000, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Chief Investigator, Mike Morgan, said in this article that there is no reason for Rodney to be granted a new trial and District Attorney Ashley Rich said this when asked by a reporter about her position on Rodney’s parole hearing: “We have always taken the position that we oppose his parole,” she said.”http://blog.al.com/live/2013/08/convicted_of_crime_he_insists.html