HEADING: "A death sentence overturned in Louisiana," by Rachel Aviv, published by The New Yorker on November 23, 2016. (Rachel Aviv is a staff writer. She won the 2016 Scripps Howard Award for “Your Son Is Deceased,” her story on police shootings, which appeared in the magazine last year. Her first article on the death penalty in Louisiana and The Rodricus Crawford case - link below - attracted critical acclaim.)
SUB-HEADING: " Courtesy Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office."
PHOTO CAPTION: "
GIST: "In 2013, a Louisiana jury sentenced Rodricus Crawford to death after the prosecutor, Dale Cox, argued that Jesus Christ commanded the punishment. Crawford, a twenty-three-year-old African-American man from Shreveport, was convicted of suffocating his one-year-old son. In a memo to Louisiana’s probation department, Cox recommended that Crawford receive “as much physical suffering as it is humanly possible to endure before he dies.” Two years later, when I met with Cox to talk about the case, for this magazine, he seemed to struggle to remember details. He thought that Crawford had been the defendant in a different capital case, and he elaborated on incidents that hadn’t happened. “Am I confusing that with another one?” he asked me. In Caddo Parish, where Crawford was tried, more people have been sentenced to death per capita—seventy-seven per cent of them black—than in any other county in America. Between 2011 and 2015, Cox was responsible for more than a third of the death sentences in Louisiana. (Shortly after my article was published, Cox chose not to run for reëlection, citing the distraction of national media coverage. He has since resigned from the district attorney’s office.) Two months ago, in a hearing on Crawford’s appeal, the justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court seemed bewildered that Crawford had ever been charged with a capital crime. Four medical experts submitted reports indicating that his son had died of pneumonia. The baby’s blood had tested positive for sepsis, which can be fatal for young children. “Does the record reflect that this father did not love his child?” Justice Jeannette Knoll asked the prosecutor, Tommy Johnson. “Is there any evidence that he occasionally abused the child? Or was rough with the child?” “No, your honor,” Johnson said. “Then how did the state come about that this was a first-degree murder case—on circumstantial evidence with a child that an autopsy discovered to have had sepsis—and ask that this man be put to death on weak circumstances? There’s not even a motive.” Last Wednesday, Louisiana’s Supreme Court overturned Crawford’s conviction, finding that Cox may have discriminated against black jurors. In a separate opinion, Knoll wrote that Crawford should have been acquitted. “No rational trier of fact could have concluded that the State presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the specific intent to kill his one-year-old son,” she wrote..........On the day that his conviction was overturned, Crawford called his mother from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, where for nearly three years he has been in confined to a nine-by-twelve-foot cell for twenty-three hours a day. “It’s over, Mama,” he said. “It’s over. It’s over.” His mother, Abbie, told me, “I just lost it. I hit the roof. I was cooking at the time and I just thought of some more recipes, and I just cooked and cooked until I was crazy.” Abbie’s elation was interrupted later that day, when she learned that she would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars—depending on the bond amount set by the judge—for her son to be released, something she could afford only if she mortgaged her mother’s house. Crawford’s aunt, Latosha, said, “You put the guy in jail wrongfully for four and a half years, and then you ask us for money? It is an insult.”.........Latosha, who owns a hair salon in Shreveport, said that since the election she had been avoiding the television. “I knew it wouldn’t be good for Rodricus,” she told me. “Do I sometimes have to collect myself and shake myself? Am I scared? Do I feel a certain type of way—not only for me being an African-American but also for my son being an African-American male? Am I afraid for the nation in general? Yes.” Crawford’s bond hearing was held on Tuesday afternoon at the Caddo Parish courthouse, where the only structure on the front lawn is a monument to the Confederacy. Abbie arrived wearing a ruffled red blouse, black-and-white-striped stockings, and red, shiny high heels. “I’m feeling great, ready to get it over,” she told a television reporter. After starting a campaign on the Web site CrowdRise, her family had raised more than forty thousand dollars in a week. “Help Rodricus get out to be home with us, his family, by Thanksgiving,” they wrote. The judge presiding over the hearing, Brady O’Callaghan, was until 2013 a violent-crimes prosecutor in the Caddo Parish district attorney’s office. He was part of a clique of attorneys who carried guns to work and were informally called the Zombie Response Team, according to depositions from the chief investigator’s wrongful-termination suit. O’Callaghan deferred to the state’s recommendation for a fifty-thousand-dollar bond but said that he considered the amount “inappropriately low.” He did not dismiss the charge of first-degree murder. A hearing was scheduled for January to determine whether there will be a new trial. Crawford’s family paid the bond, and, just before 7 P.M. on Tuesday, Crawford was released from jail. Assuming his case is resolved in his favor, Crawford hopes to leave Louisiana. Latosha said, “I feel it is important for him to move away, because Louisiana is still dealing with some . . . issues. And I just think that he will be looked down upon here.” She went on, “I pray that he will move out of the state and move forward, with no hangups, with nothing being held over his head.”"
The entire story can be found at: