Monday, October 17, 2016

Rodricus Crawford: Death Row; Louisiana; Wrongly charged with murdering his 1-year-old son Roderius, convicted and sentenced to death. A victim of the State of Louisiana’s ignorance of ‘sepsis.’

PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  I have co-written the following commentary  with Marlene Belliveau of Nova Scotia. As will be seen, Marlene is a strong supporter  and  advocate for Rodricus Crawford and his family because of knowledge she had obtained about sepsis and it's relationship to underlying diseases through personal experience - and because of  and her desire to help others in similar predicaments. We hope that our writing about the role that sepsis played in Roderius' tragic death  will help free Rodricus Crawford, will enable his  community to understand that he is utterly innocent, and will allow him to finally mourn the loss of his "young  son.”   We also  hope to help educate the public about sepsis, which truly is a 'killer', so that other innocent parents  (and families) will be saved from going through Rodricus's ordeal.  Please  circulate this commentary as widely as possible through the social media.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.


Rodricus Crawford: Wrongly  charged with murdering his 1-year-old son Roderius, convicted and sentenced to death. A victim of the State of Louisiana’s ignorance of ‘sepsis.’

By Harold Levy and Marlene Belliveau.

The  ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ (CDC) in Atlanta GA.,  proclaimed  September as ‘Sepsis Awareness Month’ - in a bid to  counter widespread  ignorance of   “the  rapidly spreading, potentially life-threatening condition.” 

That proclamation should be of great significance  to Rodricus  Crawford, who has been sentenced to death in Louisiana  after the death of his 1-year-old son Roderius who showed all the signs of  sepsis  - and no evidence of a murder.

Crawford  frantically chased down an ambulance that could not find his house, after calling 911, as his family tried to resuscitate his child. 

On the CDC web site, CDC head Tom Frieden,  says “Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming response to an infection. It can happen to anyone, at any time, from any type of infection.” 

The CDC says it is committed to getting  out  factual information  about sepsis  so the rapidly spreading disease can be detected in time – and the crucial it puts out will  not only save lives, but will hopefully also prevent  false accusations,  such as the erroneous  belief that Rodricus Crawford  harmed his 1-year-old son. 

On September 7th, the Supreme Court of Louisiana heard the appeal  of  Rodricus Crawford, an African-American man convicted in Caddo Parish by a predominately white jury. 

Crawford’s lawyers, were backed up by the opinions of nine medical experts including nationally recognized Dr. Jeffrey Kahn,  an infectious diseases specialist,  who concluded that, “the facts presented in this case are entirely consistent with an overwhelming Streptococcus Pneumoniae infection which. tragically, resulted in the death of this child."

 Dr. Kahn said Roderius was particularly vulnerable because he had only received a single dose of anti-pneumonia vaccine instead of the three doses which are recommended. 

But the prosecutors played down the autopsy evidence pointing to pneumonia  and lethal sepsis and relied instead  on  the opinion of  Dr. James Traylor,  a  police pathologist – unsupported by any physical evidence– that  Roderius had been smothered to death. 

Traylor  had decided it was a murder before ever realizing that Roderius was suffering from pneumonia  and that he tested positive for the bacteria that causes sepsis.

 It was fascinating to watch the interplay in the courtroom during Rodericus  Crawford’s appeal.

 Prosecutor  Tommy Johnson  echoed the public’s ignorance of sepsis – while  several outspoken judges displayed an impressive knowledge of pediatric disease, as evidenced by the following exchanges;

0: After  prosecutor Johnson  suggested that Roderius was in good health the night of his death because his maternal grandmother said  the baby had the “sniffles,” Justice Greg Guidry retorted, “It was clear the baby had a pneumonia.”

0: When Johnson argued that the lungs in this baby were aerated between 80-85% and that “nobody  said this baby was sick”  Justice Guidry shot back: “This child had lung issues five months  prior to death. 20% deficiency in lungs is not good. You cannot say this child was healthy and had no issues before death.” Justice Jeanette Knoll told the prosecutor. "When my Grandchildren come over and can't breath and they don't have an pneumonia, it scares me to death."

0: The CDC makes clear that  sepsis  can strike unbelievably quickly. One minute a child can appear healthy. Just hours later the sepsis can stream through its body, and the child  is dead. Johnson echoed the prevailing misconceptions about Sepsis which the CDC is attempting to counter,  when he told the judges:  “All the evidence leading up to the night before his death, no bruising, no evidence of trauma, he was healthy, no one suggested he looked in a manner  that suggested he need to go to the hospital for any reason at all. He was not coughing, he was running around playing happy and then the next morning, roughly 7-8 hours later he was dead.” Justice Knoll  showed considerably more understanding of the autopsy findings. “Is it possible that the child died from sepsis,” she asked. “How did the state come to a first degree murder case based on circumstantial evidence with a child that on autopsy had been discovered to have sepsis  and ask that this man be put to death on weak circumstances – not even a motive?”

O: When Justice  Knoll asked Johnson if the record reflected that this father did not love his child, or was there any evidence that he occasionally abused the child or was rough with him,   Johnson replied, “No,  your honour.”

0: Chief Justice Bernette Johnson neatly demolished the prosecution’s  argument that  Crawford  had murdered his son because the autopsy showed brain swelling consistent with hypoxia, which was indicative of smothering through a lack of oxygen in the blood stream, by noting. “It is not scientifically possible for the brain to swell after the child has been smothered. The state's evidence is inaccurate.” (Hypoxia is a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues.)

So how did Louisiana’s prosecutors get the jury to convict Crawford  - apart from down playing the medical cause of death? 

Apart from doing everything they could to keep  African-Americans  off the jury,  they tried to present Crawford as a man who would kill – stressing the fact that he smoked marijuana,  had not married his child’s mother, lived at home, and was unemployed. 

The final nail was hammered into Crawford’s coffin, so to speak, when, during the penalty phase of the trial,  prosecutor Dale Cox  invoked Christ in a bid to persuade the jurors to allow the state to kill Crawford. 

 "He (Jesus Christ) said, to the adult, who would harm one of these, 'one of these' referring to small children, Woe be unto you, who would harm one of these,'" Cox told the jurors.  "Now, this is the Jesus Christ of the New Testament. 'It would be better if though you were never born. You shall have a millstone cast around your neck and you will be thrown into the sea.'"

 Rodricus Crawford did not have much of a chance after that.

 Our message to Caddo Parrish Attorney General James Stewart is clear: Recognize the importance of the CDC's 'Sepsis Awareness Month' by freeing Rodricus Crawford so his community understands that he is utterly innocent - and so he can finally mourn the loss of his "young son." 

When this happens, maybe Louisiana can proclaim 'Justice Awareness Month'. 

May Roderius rest in peace. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
See the U.S. CDC Sepsis  awareness site at the link below: "Sepsis is a complication caused by the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection, which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It is difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. Patients who develop sepsis have an increased risk of complications and death and face higher healthcare costs and longer treatment. CDC is working to increase awareness of sepsis among the public, healthcare providers, and healthcare facilities, including the need to prevent infections that lead to sepsis and urgently treat suspected sepsis."

See also New York Times story - Could it be Sepsis? The CDC wants more people to ask -  at the link below; (Author Roni Caryn Rabin; September, 19, 2016):  "The baby seemed fine when Dr. Thomas R. Frieden left for work that July morning in New York more than 20 years ago. But when he returned home several hours later, his son was pale and blazing hot, limp in his wife’s arms. “My first thought was that he was dead,” said Dr. Frieden, now the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It was so scary, even for someone trained as a physician, to see how quickly someone who’s healthy can become critically ill.”  Dr. Frieden, an infectious diseases specialist, knew time was of the essence. His hunch, which turned out to be correct, was that his son had developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition triggered by an infection that can very quickly spiral out of control. He called the child’s pediatrician, and within hours, the infant had received a broad-spectrum antibiotic. He recovered within a few days. Many patients are not so fortunate. Between one million and three million Americans are given diagnoses of sepsis each year, and 15 percent to 30 percent of them will die, Dr. Frieden said. Sepsis most commonly affects people over 65, but children are also susceptible. According to one estimate, more than 42,000 children develop sepsis in the United States every year, and 4,400 die."

Harold Levy, of Toronto Canada,  is a retired criminal lawyer and  Toronto Star investigative journalist  whose work led to a public inquiry into multiple cases in which parents and caregivers had been charged with the most serious crimes, including murder - when in fact the infants had died of  natural  causes such as disease.  He is publisher of ‘The Charles Smith Blog,’ which is devoted to exposing junk science, flawed pathology and flawed pathologists…

Marlene Belliveau of Nova Scotia, Canada is mother of 5 children, 2 step children, grandmother to 15. Holds a degree in psychology, former Case Manager with Social Services, former Vice-Chair of the Canadian SIDS Foundation following the 2013 sudden death of her 7 week old granddaughter. Marlene is a strong supporter of and an advocate for Rodricus Crawford and  his family because of knowledge she had obtained about sepsis and it's relationship to underlying diseases, through personal experience and her desire to help others in similar predicaments.