May 7th, 2014
Happy Birthday Evelyn (Janet) Stanberry (May 7, 1942-September 8th, 2012)
Today is the birthday of Mrs. Evelyn (Janet) Stanberry. She would have been 72 years old. As I wrote in a previous blog: “Rodney’s mother had a birthday on May 7th. Her memory is failing, but if her son were to appear by her bedside, she would light up like a kid on a Christmas morning who had just received the gift of a lifetime. Unfortunately, his mother will have to make it to another birthday and wish that she can receive what would be her special gift. ” (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2012/05/10/the-significance-of-birthdays-and-mothers-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/) Sadly, Evelyn “Janet” Stanberry died on September 8, 2012. She did not live to see her son free and exonerated. May she rest in peace.
A lot of memories stick with me during this long journey I’ve been on with my cousin. Most of them are tough memories. One is when Rodney’s mother, father and I were visiting him on one of his visitation days. It was during the summer, it was hot, the wait was long to get in (you stand in line in the heat) and it was hot inside (no air conditioners in Alabama’s prisons). Towards the end of the visit, Rodney’s mother was about to have a seizure- his father quickly jumped up to brace her and we said our quick goodbyes to Rodney so that we could get his mother out of the visitation area. I looked back and looked at Rodney, the feeling of helplessness on his face is something I will never forget. His mother is his heart and he had to watch her walk away by the assistance of her husband and there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t follow us, he couldn’t walk to the car and say Mom, you take care of yourself, ok, he could only watch us rush to get her out. To my memory, that is the last time he saw his mother. He couldn’t even attend her funeral.
Wrongful Convictions have consequences; they are devastating on the inmate, the inmate’s family, friends and loved ones, and devastating to the system. And it does not bring about true justice for the victim and the victim’s family and the level of grief and pain they experience are great, this must not be forgotten, they, too, grieve over significant birthdays, holidays, Mother’s Day and so on. The system of justice fails both when convicting the innocent substitutes for convicting the guilty. Prosecutors must have the strength and the conviction to pursue the truth, regardless of how many years have passed by. It should be a moral responsibility of those who are sworn to serve. Rodney, I am very convinced, would be out of prison today if he were guilty, but he is an innocent man, raised in a middle class family, raised in a two-parent household, with no criminal record, with no incentive to commit the brutal crimes for which he is accused. But today, he will have to think about the years away from his mother that were taken away from him. As I mentioned before, if Rodney were guilty, then one can expect little or no empathy, but Rodney is innocent and we have to continue to expect and to pursue justice.
District Attorney Ashley Rich has the opportunity to work to free an innocent man- aside from a confession that was made that cleared Rodney and exculpatory evidence withheld that further proved his innocence (http://www.freerodneystanberry.com/the_shooter-_what_they_want_to_wish_away). She needs to continue to hear from you, she can be reached at (251) 574-8400 or (251) 574-5000 and via email at email@example.com. Rodney was denied parole again on August 28th, 2013. The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles will not grant him another parole date, which means that his release date in March 2017- 20 full years in prison for crimes he did not commit. It is very difficult for an innocent man to get parole because the parole board wants to hear that an inmate is guilty and shows remorse ( http://www.bostonreview.net/blog/schwartzapfel-stanberry-parole). Rodney certainly hates and is hurt over what happened to the victim, but he can’t say he is guilty for something he did not do. This is a very difficult dilemma and very frustrating because it is not a strategy for a guilty person to use, that is going before a parole board with claims of innocence. Here is a New York Times piece about the Innocent Prisoners Dilemma: http://www.nytimes.com/video/2010/06/04/nyregion/1247467961918/the-innocent-prisoners-dilemma.html?WT.mc_id=VI-D-I-NYT-MOD-MOD-M153-ROS-0610-L1&WT.mc_ev=click
Conviction Integrity Unit
I’ve asked several times that District Attorney Ashley Rich establish a Conviction Integrity Unit. While these units do have a fox guarding the hen house type of feel, they can work to right a wrong. Dallas County, Texas District Attorney Craig Watkins has exonerated many who were wrongfully convicted since establishing a Conviction Integrity Unit and recently elected Brooklyn, NY DA Kenneth P. Thompson just this week asked a judge to vacate the conviction of three inmates (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/06/nyregion/prosecutor-to-seek-voiding-of-3-murder-convictions-linked-to-brooklyn-detective.html) and just today (May 7th) the New York Times reported that the judge granted the request (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/07/nyregion/brooklyn-judge-vacates-murder-convictions-of-3-half-brothers.html?emc=edit_th_20140507&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=25275188) DA Thompson acted before the lawyers filed a brief, which demonstrates that district attorneys can do what is right without lawyers getting involved. It is unfortunately that one of the individuals exonerated died in prison.
So, again, I ask that you contact District Attorney Ashley Rich an ask her to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit. It would at least demonstrate that she is moving in the right direction: (251) 574-8400 or (251) 574-5000 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS No one wins, except prosecutors who advance their careers, when the wrong person/the innocent person is convicted.
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
regardin his parole denial. It is entitled Rehabilitation,
Remose, and Innocence: Rodney Stanberry Tries for Parole. The struggle to
vindicate and exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry will continue. Please join the Free Rodney K. Stanberry Facebook group page.