Saturday, September 17, 2016
Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana; Bulletin: Reporter Miles Jay Oliver asks in the Shreveport Times: 'Could a new trial happen for a death row inmate?..."n the course of Kappel's arguments and follow-up from assistant Caddo Parish DA Tommy Johnson, Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll asked how the state came to charge Crawford with first-degree murder in a case based on circumstantial evidence. "With a child that an autopsy had discovered had sepsis and ask that this man be put to death on weak circumstances -- you don't even have a motive," Knoll said. At oral argument, the State conceded there was "no evidence" of any motive in the case." (September 17, 2106);
"Oral arguments presented to the Louisiana Supreme Court on behalf of a death row inmate could lead to a new trial when an opinion is rendered in the matter. The 2013 conviction of Rodricus Crawford, 27, by a Caddo Parish jury and his subsequent death sentence came under fire by Cecelia Kappel, an attorney with the Capital Appeals Project, during her arguments on behalf of Crawford on Sept. 7. Kappel cited several examples questioning portions of the case presented against Crawford by the Caddo Parish District Attorney's office, including sufficiency of evidence, evidence of innocence and prosecuting attorney Dale Cox's statement that Jesus Christ would impose the death penalty. In a case that was cited as entirely circumstantial, Crawford was convicted of first-degree murder in November 2013 for the death of his one year-old son, Roderius Lott. He was sentenced to death. The case drew attention from national media as being one of several that allegedly highlights the high rates of cases resulting in death penalty sentences in Caddo Parish. Also at issue in Kappel's arguments before the justices was the idea that the state's forensic expert testified that the death was "more likely than not" due to smothering. "I wanted to focus on the evidence at trial," said Kappel in a later interview with The Times. In hearing her arguments, justices also were interested in hearing about new evidence that wasn't previously brought to trial in Crawford's case. Kappel noted that a large portion of the case against Crawford was almost entirely dependent on testimony from a pathologist that has since been disputed. The justices questioned Kappel on information regarding the original pathology report. "The thing that's really important is all the new evidence brought before the Supreme Court now — this is the only opportunity they will have to look at this evidence," said Kappel. Her oral arguments also noted that she found prejudicial Cox's statements to the jury that Jesus Christ's verdict would be death. Crawford told police he had been sleeping with his son beside him and found the boy unresponsive when he woke up on the morning of Feb. 16, 2012. Police asked Crawford about a bruise on his son's lip. Crawford said his son had fallen in the bathroom the previous day. He also denied having accidentally slept on top of the boy. On the day of the death, Caddo Parish Coroner Dr. Todd Thoma determined the death was "suspicious" and referred the case to pathologist James Traylor, who conducted the autopsy. Traylor later determined that the bruise indicated smothering and other bruises present on the boy's body were indicative of child abuse. Traylor's determinations were made before additional test results showed Lott had pneumonia and streptococcus bacteria in his blood. Based on Traylor's conclusions, Crawford was charged with homicide and Cox asked for the death penalty.........Kappel argued that Crawford's jury overlooked evidence that could show Lott may have died from sepsis. A report presented by defense-hired Daniel Spitz determined Crawford' son died from pneumonia. In the course of Kappel's arguments and follow-up from assistant Caddo Parish DA Tommy Johnson, Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll asked how the state came to charge Crawford with first-degree murder in a case based on circumstantial evidence. "With a child that an autopsy had discovered had sepsis and ask that this man be put to death on weak circumstances -- you don't even have a motive," Knoll said. .At oral argument, the State conceded there was "no evidence" of any motive in the case."