COUNTDOWN: 17 days to Wrongful Conviction Day: (Thursday October 6, 2016);
OPEN LETTER: To Caddish Parrish District Attorney James Stewart and the citizens of Shreveport, from Yolanda Young, published by The Shreveport Times, on September 19, 2016. (Yolanda Young is an attorney and the author of "On Our Way to Beautiful.” She appears regularly on TVOne’s "News One Now with Roland Martin" and lives in Washington, D.C.)
THE LETTER: "When you were elected the first black district attorney for Caddo Parish, I asked you how you planned to rehabilitate Caddo’s notorious reputation — in addition to applying death sentences to a disproportionate number of black men, a disturbing number of whom turn out to be innocent, Caddo, the nation’s death penalty capital, currently faces a lawsuit alleging discrimination in jury selection — you expressed an intention to look at each case individually and do what was right “It cuts the way it cuts,” you said. Earlier this month, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Rodricus Crawford’s appeal of his death sentence. The justices seemed incredulous that this case even exists, with Justice Jeannette Theriot Knoll asking at least three times, “How did this become a first-degree murder case?” When he was taken into custody and charged with the murder of his 1-year-old son, Crawford was a 23-year-old father of two with no history of violence or criminal record save two unadjudicated marijuana possession charges and an unresolved child support claim. His actions, from his first scream at the discovery that his son wasn’t breathing to the tears he shed in the back of the police car while no one was watching to the answers he provided police during five interrogations, to me seemed those of a innocent man. But don’t take my word for it. Below are quotes made by the justices during Crawford's hearing: You had two competing causes here for [the death of the baby]: sepsis pneumonia and the theory of suffocation by hand… . there is more evidence in the record to establish the health condition of the child, which was very dangerous, of sepsis and pneumonia, than there is of suffocation… So how did this get to be indicted as a first-degree murder case?... (The prosecution) says "that’s right" [the child had 20 percent deficiency in his breathing], but I don’t know. That doesn’t sound good to me....When my grandchildren can’t breath, and they don’t even have pneumonia, it scares me to death. What was the mechanism for the smothering? What was (the state’s) theory?... So we’re suggesting actual intent here to commit this homicide and the state’s theory was that the father held his hand over the baby’s mouth and smothered him?... And then [the father] went to sleep next to the child’s body and then sometime later called for help? Is that your theory of the case? Is that what [the state] suggested to the jury? Did the record reflect that the father did not love his child? Is there any evidence that the father occasionally abused the child? Or was rough with the child?... The evidence was actually to the contrary.... There was no motive established... How did this come about that this is a first-degree murder case on circumstantial evidence with a child who the autopsy discovered to have sepsis and ask that this man be put to death on weak circumstances ... not even a motive ... this was a sick child, sir. Aside from seriously questioning the guilt of the defendant, the justices also expressed concern that the state made procedural errors regarding the admission of hearsay evidence and improper handling of the racial makeup of the jury, which had nine white and three black jurors. Taken together one is left to conclude that not only is Crawford innocent, but he also eventually is going to be set free. But after how many years and at what expense to Crawford, his family and area citizens who have to pay to house the defendant and defend a losing, unjust case? Of course, you have the power to free Crawford today. You can drop the charges just as the previous district attorney did in the case of Glenn Ford, another man wrongly imprisoned who spent 30 years on death row, long after the state knew of his innocence. Perhaps you are comfortable allowing Crawford’s life to waste away while waiting for appeals like Ford's. I’m particularly troubled by these cases because I’m from Stoner Hill, one of Shreveport’s poorest neighborhoods. From my grandmother’s back yard, I can see Ford’s family home and throw a rock in any direction to land on a young man like Crawford, one who drinks too much and routinely smokes marijuana but has no penchant for violence and no heart to kill, least of all his son. The “justice” system of Caddo Parish failed Crawford. People familiar with the case have told me the record suggests that Crawford’s trial attorney, J. Antonio Florence, was ill-prepared for a case he knew could cost his client his life. And the word that has come to define the deeds of former Caddo prosecutor Dale Cox: evil. Mr. Stewart, I believe you to be a good, but pragmatic man. Unfortunately, the situation you find yourself in calls for more than incremental change. It requires a radical response. One that will show the world what it means to be the city of churches because no one sees God in any of this. The only thing this appears to be is politics. But if conscience can't sway a politician, voters can. Which brings me to the citizens of Shreveport. At the end of Crawford's hearing, Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson remarked on the large number of spectators in the court and, thinking they were students, asked who they were. Eleven were members of Crawford's family, including his mother. After speaking of how moved and uplifted she felt after a hundred white and mostly Catholic clergy signed an amicus brief to the court disavowing Cox’s assertion that Jesus Christ required a death penalty verdict, Crawford’s mother went on to say something that shocked me: “There are a lot of black churches in Shreveport. None of them came to help me.” Abby then repeated her words: “They. Did. Nothing.” The love I have for my hometown is well documented, most extensively in my memoir, "On Our Way to Beautiful." I’ve been extended great kindness by those some might label bigots and have experienced injustice at the hands of those who call themselves Christian. People are complicated, Shreveport, the seat of what was once known as Caddo “Bloody” Parish, is even more so. I wouldn’t dare ask the impossible, for the good white people of this community to solve 400-year-old wrongs like lynching, redlining and discrimination that you can’t bear to think of. What I’m asking is for us to join together on this one thing, to free this one man. Watch the hearing, and if you believe there is one shred of evidence that points to Crawford’s guilt, so be it. But if you watch it, and see the truth in it, that this man is innocent, do something. I grew up in the St. Peter Baptist Church under the Rev. W.M. Green. Anyone who knew him will attest to his being the most caring, humble and good-hearted man to walk (he did not drive) our streets. The only time I recall Pastor Green raising his voice was at the end of service after he’d invited the unsaved to turn their lives over to Christ. Pastor Green would stand behind a chair begging for someone to take that seat. If no one came forward, he’d throw up his hand and yell, “The blood is not on my hands.” You could tell these words were not uttered in anger or intimidation. This was a plea that came from a place of love. Pastor Green was begging his congregation, save yourself.Save. Yourself. Shreveport, blood flows from your streets. Save Rodricus Crawford. Save yourself.
The entire letter can be found at the3 following link;
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.