Title: The quest for a Pardon, an Apology and Reforms (PAR)- Exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry
March 31, 2021
This was one of my “Facebook Memories from March 29, 2010:
Can you imagine spending approximately 4,750 days (and counting) incarcerated for crimes you did not commit? “No debt is paid when the wrong person is convicted.”-CSI-Miami”
Rodney K. Stanberry spent approximately 7.300 days in prison for crimes he did not commit. He began his prison sentence on March 24th, 1997 and remained in prison until March 13th, 2017. Rodney recently commented about that fateful March 24th date:
March 24th is burnt in my soul, but not my heart.”
Rodney has a saying that one should never let ANYTHING change who you are. The blatant wrongful conviction by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office did not change who Rodney is. The denial of parole three times did not change who Rodney is. The 20 years in prison away from his family, newborn son at the time, deprived of being able to attend his mother’s funeral, and away from the great outdoors did not change who he is. I recall a letter Rodney sent to me when he shared that he touched a tree for the first time, this was probably 10 years into his incarceration. Rodney did not change who he is even though the state provided him with every opportunity to do so. He had a solid upbringing and he was a hardworking, taxpaying, law abiding citizen when he entered prison and he remains that way today.
Although Rodney has been released after serving every day of his 20-year sentence, we continue to fight for his exoneration. Admittedly this hasn’t been done with the same urgency as was the case when he was incarcerated, but the urgency is strong and the activism will be more steady. From my point of view, experiencing Rodney’s plight of trying to find work when he was released really hurt. He would have been retired from a job and on his second career. He could have taken his time to get back to work following his release, but he believed and believes in working and making a living without assistance. The conversations we had about what to tell potential employers about his 20-year absence from work, the potential decision to leave his home after being away for 20 years to take a job out of state, having a conviction on his record and so on were painful. I never revealed this to him as I tried to remain strong throughout his 20 years of incarceration, but I literally cried after every conversation we had during his plight to find work. When he found work in November 2017, I was relieved for him but still on edge as it was temp work with the possibility of becoming permanent, which it did. So during year two, I personally just wanted him to enjoy a full year out of prison and I needed some time to get my energy level up again. My devotion to Rodney during his 20 years of incarceration was truly like the equivalent of a second job. This isn’t to say that there was not a full court approach with family and friends involved, as family and friends were very instrumental in activism and helping to get Rodney through this travesty of justice. This also isn’t to say that there wasn’t activism following his release as we’ve contacted many people and shared many thoughts about the importance of a pardon and an apology. The fight to free the innocent takes a lot of time and energy. As I’ve said before, I would not wish a wrongful conviction on any person nor on any family. The pandemic hit at the beginning of his third year of freedom, but now, as of March 24th, 2021, we are on year 4 and it is time to move full speed ahead with the same urgency that we had when he was incarcerated. A pardon by the state and an apology and commitment to reforms by the Mobile District Attorney’s Office. The pardon will be difficult without current Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich reopening Rodney’s case and clearing his name. District Attorneys around the country have worked to correct a wrong, she should do the same.
If Rodney were actually guilty, I am convinced that he would not have served a full 20 years in prison. The innocent is often punished multiple times. Rodney has been out of prison for 4 years. As was the case when he entered prison, he is a law-abiding, tax-paying, family oriented individual. Prison did not change who he is. I wonder if being a prosecutor changes who people are as “the get and maintain a conviction all cost mentality” can erode one’s sense of decency and humanity. Rodney has worked at the same job since the year in which he was released. Prior to his prison sentence on March 24, 1997, Rodney held the same job for more than 6 years, without taking a day off. He remained at the job almost up until the day he began his prison sentence. His place of employment, an established company, kept him employed following his arrest and conviction because his supervisor and co-workers knew he was innocent and knew that he was at work when the crimes took place. (Below is a radio interview featuring his former supervisor). There is nothing in Rodney’s character that would have resulted in his committing such a brutal crime, in fact, he tried to help law enforcement apprehend the actual culprits. In contrast, what was in a prosecutor’s character that made him pursue an innocent man, dismissing the confession of one of the actual individuals who committed a brutal crime against the victim? What was in a prosecutor’s character who admitted under oath that he traveled from Mobile, Alabama to a prison in New York to meet with the person he claimed was the shooter, but did not take notes because he was on vacation. What would cause an Assistant District Attorney during Rodney’s Rule 32 to frighten the person whose confession was suppressed from telling the truth under oath that would have freed an innocent man?
Rodney served 20 years for crimes he did not commit. That can never be ok. One can’t say ok, what’s done is done. It is never too late to do what is right.
What we will continue to pursue are: PARDON- APOLOGY – REFORMS. (Think PAR)
1) A Pardon from the State of Alabama, which will likely require help from the Mobile District Attorney’s Office
2) An Apology from the Mobile District Attorney’s Office for pursing and maintaining Rodney’s wrongful conviction
3) A commitment to Reforms, such as the establishment of a Conviction Integrity Unit
The battle to achieve these goals will be as uphill as the one fought to pursue his freedom. While his being incarcerated created urgency that required a relentless pursue of justice on a daily basis, this request for a pardon, an apology and reforms will have to have that same type of urgency. I asked this question in the past: Which is worse, a prosecutor who pursues a conviction, even if it means that an innocent man will go to prison, for political gain or a prosecutor who is already well established but refuses to right a wrong? Both situations are problematic. In my most recent letter to Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, I asked that she does the right thing as no one wins when the wrong person is convicted. Rodney cannot get those 20 years back. If the prosecutor had pursued the truth and justice, there would have been closure in this case.
In future blog posts, we will share with you updates on the quest for a pardon, ask for you to contact the Mobile District Attorney’s Office, the Alabama Department of Pardons and Paroles, civil rights organizations and media outlets, and we will ask those in Mobile County, Alabama to particularly pay close attention to the upcoming (2022) Mobile District Attorney’s Race- both the primary election and the general election. We strongly ask that you always be polite when contacting these individuals. In a future post I will share some thoughts about three people who probably should run in 2022. In the meantime, please review key documents and past blogs about Rodney’s case: www.freerodneystanberry.com and www.freerodneystanberry.com/blog. In this interview a decade ago when Rodney had his second parole date, Rodney was asked about his belief in the system (http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/062709-RS.mp3) He remarked that he does believe in the system, perhaps it is a character defect. I was asked just days before Rodney’s third parole why do I continue to believe in a system that has failed Rodney. My response was:
“I will not give up on his case, even if I give up believing in our system of justice. In these United States, a countless number of named and unnamed people fought against the inhuman and brutal system of slavery, the false promise and aftermath of the Reconstruction era, the Jim Crow system with its separate water fountains, burial grounds, bus seats that attempted to reinforce inferiority by virtual of birth, the modern day Civil Rights era where the children, college students, and adults said enough is enough, you will recognize our humanity, to the Dream Defenders occupying the state capitol of Florida standing up for what they believe in. So if the day ever comes that I do stop believing as a result of just one heartbreak too many, it does not mean that I would not keep fighting to correct a wrong, I would not stop fighting against an injustice, this injustice against Rodney K. Stanberry, and this injustice against the system of justice itself. Justice is not served when the wrong person is convicted. We have to keep up the fight against injustice because, after all, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and I want to live in a place where there is justice everywhere. https://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/2013/08/20/don%e2%80%99t-stop- believing-in-justice-the-case-of-rodney-k-stanberry/
We know the system has failed Rodney and the victim as justice is never served when the wrong person is convicted. But the system can correct itself. We are going for PAR (a PARDON, an APOLOGY and REFORMS. The Mobile District Attorney’s Office could have brought about true justice from day once but the prosecutor opted to pursue and innocent man and the Mobile DA’s Office opted to sanction Rodney’s wrongful conviction. There likely will not be a pardon without the DA’s office sanctioning it and/or working to exonerate Rodney K. Stanberry. We have to get PAR (A PARDON, an APOLOGY and REFORMS). Reforms are needed to address current wrongful convictions and to work to prevent them in the first place.
Thank you and Peace,
Artemesia Stanberry (firstname.lastname@example.org)
News item that includes the prosecutor in Rodney’s case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEVURKsGoMI&t=23s
These are two interviews from 2006 and circa 2009 that feature Rodney’s family, supervisor and Rodney (on the second one) from the Dr. Wilmer Leon Show: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/?attachment_id=119 and another interview: http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/062709-RS.mp3
An investigative report by Beth Schwartzapfel: http://bostonreview.net/us/who-shot-valerie-finley