Mobile Police Department Establishes Special Committee, Why Can’t Mobile District Attorney’s Office Establish a Conviction Integrity Unit?
March 27, 2014
I read with interest AL.com’s Theresa Seiger’s article about newly appointed Mobile Police Chief James Barber’s establishment of a committee to address policies and procedures in the awake of recent officer related shootings. Specifically, the committee will consist of several officers appointed by Barber to review officer related shootings (http://blog.al.com/live/2014/03/newly_formed_committee_to_revi.html#incart_river_default)
Seiger writes in her article that Barber had discussed this possibility when he was sworn in this past November. However, the incident that seemed to move this up on his agenda was the recently officer related shooting of a dog when an officer entered the backyard of a home owner in pursuit of a fleeing suspect. On March 17th, 2014 I listened to Sean Sullivan’s show on FM 106.5 talk following this incident and his show was full of calls and a former officer, discussing this case of the officer shooting a homeowner’s dog during the chase pursuit (the homeowners were not the suspects, rather a suspect allegedly ran into their backyard). It has garnered much media attention. Police Chief Barber, it seems in response to this attention, offered a response, a committee to review officer related shootings. Yes, it will be officers reviewing the actions of other officers, as opposed to a citizen review board, but it is a response.
District Attorney Ashley Rich and Conviction Integrity Unit
Why won’t Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, in response to evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions reported by the media since her swearing in in 2011, establish a Conviction Integrity Unit similar to the one established by Dallas County, Texas District Attorney Craig Watkins. Below is information about the Dallas County, Texas Conviction Integrity Unit:
“Established by District Attorney Craig Watkins in July of 2007, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and re-investigates legitimate post conviction claims of innocence in accordance with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 64 (Motion for Forensic DNA Testing). In addition, the Conviction Integrity Unit reviews and prosecutes old cases (DNA and non-DNA related) where evidence identifies different or additional perpetrators. Special Field Bureau Chief Russell Wilson supervises the Conviction Integrity Unit, the Appellate Division, the Public Integrity Division, the Federal Division and the Mental Health Unit, as well as public information, evidence destruction and expunctions at the District Attorney’s Office. The Conviction Integrity Unit is staffed by two assistant district attorney, one investigator and one legal assistant. This special division is the first of its kind in the United States.” http://www.dallasda.com/division/conviction-integrity-unit/
As mentioned, media coverage of officer related shootings seemed to prompt Mobile Police Chief James Barber to establish a committee to review said shootings. Since District Attorney Ashley Rich moved from her Assistant District Attorney position to the District Attorney position in 2011, the local media aired or printed information about the following cases:
From Lagniappe Mobile: “Did Toby Priest Spend Three Years in Jail for a Crime He Did Not Commit?” http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=4983&sid=1
From the Al.com/ Mobile Press Register: “Prosecution Drops Robbery Case Against Mobile Man” http://blog.al.com/live/2011/10/prosecution_drops_robbery_case.html
FYI here is a blog that I wrote in response to the LagniappeMobile investigative piece. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2011/11/16/reaction-to-article-in-lagniappe-about-the-toby-priest-case/
William Ziegler (currently on death row in Alabama):
From the AL.com/ Mobile Press Register: “How the System Failed William Ziegler: Perjured Testimony, Trashed Evidence, Lying Jurors.” http://blog.al.com/live/2013/02/how_the_system_failed_william.html
From Lagniappe Mobile: “Who Killed Allen Baker? Judge’s Order Suggests Murder Case Stacked Against Death Row Inmate.” http://classic.lagniappemobile.com/article.asp?articleID=5961
From Al.com/Mobile Press Register: Prosecutor, Defense Lawyer Clash at Appeals Court Over Overturn of Capital Murder Conviction.” http://blog.al.com/live/2013/10/prosecutor_defense_lawyer_clas_1.html
George Martin (currently on death row in Alabama)
From Al.com/ The Times Picayune: Former Alabama State Trooper Convicted of Burning Wife to Death Seeks New Trial (update)”: http://blog.al.com/live/2012/04/former_alabama_state_trooper_g.html
From al.com/Press Register: “Judge Overturns 13 year Old Capital Murder Conviction of Mobile-Based Trooper. http://blog.al.com/live/2013/09/judge_overturns_13-year-old_ca.html
From the Equal Justice Initiative: “New Trial Ordered for Death Row Inmate George Martin Due to Prosecutorial Misconduct” http://www.eji.org/node/816
Rob Holbert of Lagniappe wrote the following in a column calling for an Innocence Project in Alabama wrote:
“While it is awful to consider that innocent people have gone to jail, what is even more troubling is that some prosecutors may not have the capacity to look at their own work critically when problems arise. No one likes to be wrong, but everyone is wrong from time to time. Prosecutors are not exempt from that rule of life.
One thing that has become clear to me over years is the legal system is far from perfect, and often because of the sheer glut of cases, expediency takes precedent over thoroughness. What’s even clearer is the power judges, prosecutors and police have to make certain things happen when they want to.”
If District Attorney Ashley Rich were to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit, it would be a case of prosecutors evaluating the work of their fellow prosecutors, but, like the committee established by Mobile Police Chief James Barber, that leadership is listening and wants to do something to assure the public that there is complete integrity in the pursuit of protecting the public. The Mobile Police Department is experience budget cuts, yet, Barber found a way to do something to address the concerns of the public. Why can’t Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich do the same?
In conclusion, I asked Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich and her opponent Mark Erwin during the 2010 campaign to replace District Attorney John Tyson, Jr. about how they would address wrongful convictions. This is just my opinion, but I think Mark Erwin would have done something to assure the public’s trust of the aforementioned cases came to the public’s view during his administration. http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/11/21/another-judge-grants-a-new-trial-in-mobile-alabama-a-reaction-to-the-lagniappe-article-on-william-zieglar/
District Attorney Ashley Rich can be reached at (251) 574-8400, (251) 574-5000 or via email at email@example.com in the event that you wish to request that she establishes a Conviction Integrity Unit.
PS Below is a blog writer in January which includes why Rodney K. Stanberry’s case should be reviewed. His case was also mentioned in Rob Holbert’s piece calling for an Innocence Project (also written after District Attorney Ashley Rich moved from Assistant District Attorney to being elected to serve as the district attorney). http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2014/01/13/fighting-for-funding-fighting-for-justice-establish-a-conviction-integrity-unit/